Catalonia crisis: Arrest warrant expected for Carles Puigdemont

Posted November 06, 2017

Sacked Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont and four former ministers have turned themselves in to Belgian police, the Brussels prosecutor's office says, following Spain's issuing of an arrest warrant.

The five Catalan politicians who fled to Belgium after Spanish authorities removed them from office on October 28 were taken into custody Sunday on European arrest warrants issued after they failed to show up in Madrid last week for questioning.

The Belgian judge will have to decide within 24 hours what comes next for the five separatist politicians wanted in Spain on suspicion of rebellion for pushing through a declaration of independence for the northeastern Catalonia in violation of Spain's Constitution.

A judge in Madrid was on Friday set to issue an European Union arrest warrant for Catalonia's deposed leader over his region's tumultuous independence drive, in a move likely to take tensions to a new level in Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

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.

"They were put in custody at 9.17 this morning", spokesman for Brussels prosecutors Gilles Dejemeppe told a news conference on Sunday.

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The Spanish government have said that the jailing of the Catalan politicians is not politically motivated.

Either of those two options could enable the exiled regional leaders to take part in the region's snap election on 21 December. The ninth spent a night behind bars before posting bail and being released. 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.

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

He said that wanted to appear before the judges but that did not mean a Spanish court.

"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.