October 31, 2017 / 7:23 PM / a month ago

No chateau - Catalan leader's modest Belgian exile

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - At 70 euros (61.78 pounds) a night, with the rumble of the Brussels metro thrown in, Carles Puigdemont is hardly living the high life of a political fugitive charged with abusing public funds.

Sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is seen reflected in a mirror, during a news conference, on a TV screen at a bar near Sant Jaume square in Barcelona, Spain, October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

The Catalan leader, ousted by Madrid and facing charges of rebellion and sedition as well as wasting money on a referendum on independence, has been staying since his arrival in Belgium on Monday at the 3-star Chambord Hotel, staff said.

And while it may be named after the grandest French chateau on the Loire, once home to the 18th-century deposed King of Poland, it offers rather more modest accommodation for today’s exile behind an elegant 1920s Art Deco facade. It does, however, offer a rapid getaway into the adjacent underground station.

Puigdemont told a news conference on Tuesday that he had not come for the Belgian asylum which at least one Flemish nationalist government minister has said might be offered, but to lobby the European Union institutions. He forswore, however, staying in the European Quarter itself, and its upscale hotels which regularly house EU heads of state during summit meetings.

His plans remain unclear and he has had only the coolest of welcomes from the EU and the Belgian government.

With prosecutors summoning him to testify before Spain’s High Court on Thursday, Puigdemont may face demands from Madrid for his arrest if he fails to heed the summons.

As television camera crews set up outside in the hope of catching Europe’s most wanted politician step out for dinner, no Belgian police were visible at the hotel on Tuesday evening.

Reporting by Hortense de Roffignac and Alastair Macdonald; editing by Mark Heinrich

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