Catalonia crisis: Arrest warrant expected for Carles Puigdemont

Jerome Frank
November 6, 2017

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who faced an global arrest warrant for his role in an ill-fated declaration of independence, turned himself in voluntarily to Belgian police on Sunday.

Since then, eight politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trial, and arrest warrants have been issued for five others, including Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to try to run a government in exile.

The fight between Spain and Catalonia's separatists reached a Belgian judge on Sunday after the region's deposed leader and four ex-ministers surrendered in Brussels to face possible extradition to Madrid for allegedly plotting a rebellion.

Belgian judicial authorities now have to make a decision rife with diplomatic implications for fellow European Union members Spain and Belgium and political consequences for Catalonia, the restive Spanish region fighting Madrid for independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sacked Puigdemont and dismissed Catalonia's parliament, calling a regional election for December 21.

The Spanish government does not recognize the move and has chose to impose direct rule on the region, further ordering nine former ministers of Catalonia to be remanded in custody pending trial in connection with the independence initiative.

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Belgium, where a European arrest warrant can be blocked for several mainly procedural reasons, will have a maximum of three months to decide whether to send Puigdemont back to Spain.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo has said that any politician can stand in the election unless he or she has been convicted of a crime.

The lawyer, Paul Bekaert, told The Associated Press Puigdemont would turn himself in to police if an arrest warrant was ultimately issued. A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail. But Mas said the main goals of secession supporters must be recovering self-rule and the release of the jailed separatists.

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. The declaration is deemed mostly symbolic because it is unlikely Spain or the worldwide community will recognize an independent Catalonia.

Prosecutors had asked Investigative Magistrate Carmen Lamela to order the immediate detention of Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers, who ignored court summonses to appear for questioning on Thursday over their role in an independence referendum.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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