Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalan leader

06 November, 2017, 01:22 | Author: Malcolm Fuller
  • Catalonia's ousted president Carles Puigdemont

Puigdemont and four of his associates who fled to Belgium in the aftermath were wanted by Madrid on charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust relating to Catalonia's independence campaign.

The broadcaster says the four deposed cabinet ministers also reported to police.

The central government responded by dismissing Mr Puigdemont's executive, imposing direct rule and calling fresh Catalonia elections on December 21.

Puigdemont, who considers himself the rightful leader of Catalonia, has said he went to Belgium not to flee the Spanish court system, but rather to seek European support for his region's independence bid.

Puigdemont's lawyer in Brussels had previously said that his client plans to fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

Mr Puigdemont has said he would be willing to co-operate with the Belgian judiciary but that he had lost confidence in Spanish justice, which he claimed has become politicised.

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The Belgian judge has until tonight NZT to make a decision on whether to keep Puigdemont and four ex-officials from his government in custody after their surrender to police in Brussels triggered a 24-hour deadline, according to Gilles Dejemeppe, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor office.

Also on Thursday, six other Catalan lawmakers appeared in a parallel session in the Supreme Court, where they were given a week to prepare their defense ahead of a new hearing on November 9.

President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, looks on during a government meeting at the Palau de la Generalitat building on October 17, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. But, he said, the main goals must be to recover the self-rule of the region and the release of the jailed separatists, not another immediate attempt to culminate the independence drive. He said the Spanish courts "can't guarantee a fair and independent sentence that will be free of the enormous weight and influence of politics".

Catalonia's push for independence has triggered Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

"We want to send a message to Europe that even if our president is still in Brussels and all our government now is in Madrid jailed, that the independence movement still isn't finished", 24-year-old protester Adria Ballester said in Barcelona.

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