efe-epaGroningen, the Netherlands

Carles Puigdemont, the former president of the autonomous government of Catalonia who fled to Belgium, said Wednesday that he would like to leave politics and return to normal life as soon as possible, but warned that he expects a new European arrest warrant (EAW), the third one, against him in the next weeks or month.

"Even though there is no arrest warrant against me right now, the Spanish judiciary refuses to accept me as a witness of what happened in Catalonia. Is that because my opinion is not important enough to let them know the truth, perhaps? I am willing to answer all the questions of the prosecution and the defense," he said during a visit to the University of Groningen on Wednesday.

His words came as the trial of the twelve pro-independence leaders who participated in the secessionist attempt of the Catalan autonomous region of northeastern Spain in October 2017, has begun in the Supreme Court of Madrid.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium that same month to avoid appearing before the Spanish courts for his participation in the Catalan independence process in that year and later was arrested in Germany in March 2018, following an European arrest warrant against him. He was later released because the German justice system refused to hand him over for the charge of rebellion for which Spain had issued the Euro-warrant.

After the German refusal, the Spanish Justice withdrew the European and international arrest warrant for Puigdemont, but since the national arrest warrant is still in force, the former Catalan president cannot return to Spain, as he would be automatically arrested.

In the talk at the University of Groningen, Puigdemont said that "there are still shadows of Franco's regime in the Spanish justice system", so he thought it would be "difficult" for the courts to have "a fair trial" on the independence process in Catalonia.

"I was the main political leader of that referendum. The rest of the people were under my orders. Is my opinion important or not in this trial" the former Catalan president said, who since his escape from Spain resides in the Belgian town of Waterloo and considered himself "an exile."

Puigdemont regretted having "suspended the effects of the unilateral declaration of independence" following the illegal referendum of 2017 and considered that this step, which he then justified as a contribution to the dialogue with Madrid, "was a big mistake."

Carles Puigdemont described the trial that the twelve pro-independence leaders of his government, who participated in the separatist attempt, are facing as "political judgment" and stressed that the problem of the Catalans "is not with the Spanish population but with their politicians."