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The Crans Montana Forum, an NGO created in Switzerland in 1986 to promote international debate, has started its 30th annual session today in Geneva. Among the speakers was Carles Puigdemont. The Catalan politician was presented by the forum's honorary chairman and founding member, Jean Paul Carteron, who described him as "the former president of Catalonia, the leader of the Catalan pro-independence movement, who is today in exile".

Eurodiputat acreditació Puigdemont - M.L.

Alongside Puigdemont on the stage were other invitees, like the prime minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, and the president of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian.

In a short speech, Carteron said that the debate over independence doesn't concern them, because it's an internal matter between the Catalan and Spanish people, but that they are concerned about the fact that politicians who "haven't robbed, who haven't killed, who haven't been corrupted" should be treated as criminals by the media or facing possible sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

"It's not acceptable for there to be political prisoners, that in our world today there should be people in prison because they don't think like the central power," he said.

carles puigdemont suissa ginebra

The Forum's honorary chairman noted that Puigdemont was elected an MEP in last month's election with a million votes but, as he put it, Antonio Tajani, the president of the Parliament, "ran down the stairs to stop him entering".

He explained that Puigdemont was present to encourage reflection on "this essential problem: can one accept, in the 21st century, that a country which is considered to be democratic and a member of the EU should have political prisoners in its prisons, people who have done nothing but think differently from the policy applied and promoted by the central power?".