Updated: 31/10/17 : 07:06:53
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World :: Carles Puigdemont expected to make public statement from Brussels today

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has gone to Belgium, a lawyer he has hired there says.

The lawyer, Paul Bekaert, said he had not gone into hiding and did not deny he might seek asylum.

Spain's chief prosecutor has called for rebellion charges to be brought against him and other organisers of Catalonia's banned independence referendum.

The Spanish central government took direct control of Catalonia on Monday, replacing sacked officials.

It suspended the region's autonomy and called for fresh elections after Mr Puigdemont and his government declared independence last week.

Mr Bekaert said Mr Puigdemont was now in the Belgian capital, Brussels from where he is expected to make a public statement later today..

"He has full rights to be here: there is nothing against him at this moment," he told Flemish public radio. Asked whether the Catalan leader was planning to seek asylum in Belgium he added: "We're keeping all options open - nothing has been decided."

Theo Francken, Belgium's immigration minister, said over the weekend that an asylum application was "not unrealistic" but Prime Minister Charles Michel later said it was "absolutely not on the agenda".

Mr Francken, a member of the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party, said last week that Catalan ministers could apply for political asylum in Belgium, adding that he had doubts over whether Mr Puigdemont and others would get a fair trial in Spain.

Political commentators in Belgium have suggested that Mr Francken's earlier comments could be seen as an invitation to former Catalan members of parliament to seek asylum in the country.

On Monday Spanish media reported that Mr Puigdemont had met Flemish politicians in Brussels. The TV station La Sexta reported that he was there with five of his sacked government's ministers.