EU parliament cancels Catalan separatist's event

Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since Spain cracked down on his efforts to lead the Catalonia region to independence via a referendum (AFP Photo/Odd ANDERSEN)

Brussels (AFP) - The European Parliament on Friday cancelled an event that was to be attended by Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, citing "security threats".

"There is a high risk that the proposed event could pose a threat to the maintenance of public order on Parliament's premises," the speaker's office said.

Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since Spain cracked down on his efforts to lead the Catalonia region to independence via a referendum.

He had been due to meet reporters on Monday in the European Parliament in Strasbourg at an event hosted by the Belgian MEP Ralph Packet.

But his presence was furiously opposed by Spanish lawmakers, who regard his secession bid as illegal, and the assembly president ordered a security review.

This noted increased tensions surrounding the ongoing trial of several of Puigdemont's Catalan colleagues who have been charged in Spain with "rebellion".

And earlier this month, pro-independence protesters temporarily occupied EU official buildings in Barcelona.

"The analysis has concluded that the security threats linked to the event cannot be mitigated by Parliament security services," the statement said.

There was no immediate reaction from Puigdemont's camp, nor news on whether the event would take place elsewhere.

But Spanish conservative MEP Gonzalez Pons welcomed the decision.

"The European Parliament has acted responsibly by suspending the act of the escaped coup plotter, Puigdemont," he said, in a tweet.

"After the independentistas took over the headquarters of the European institutions 15 days ago in Barcelona, it was necessary to prevent them repeating the aggression."

If he ever returns to Spain, the former Catalan regional president faces prosecution for pushing an independence referendum in October 2017 in defiance of a court ban.

The referendum was followed by a declaration of independence by leaders in the wealthy northeastern region -- a dozen of whom are now on trial

The move sparked Spain's deepest political crisis since its transition to democracy in the 1970s.

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