Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalan leader

Lucy Bush
November 6, 2017

On Friday, a Spanish judge issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont, whose request to testify by videoconference was rejected.

The charges against him are rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

The move has seen Madrid take control of Catalonia's civil service, police force and finances and call the snap election, which could see as many as 150 of the region's top officials replaced.

When asked whether he will be seeking political asylum in Belgium, Puigdemont said that he did not go to Brussels for that reason.

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Puigdemont would then have to be surrendered to Spain within 10 days.

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.

According to Belgian procedures, prosecutors must bring suspects to a judge, who has 24 hours to decide whether or not to approve the arrest warrant. A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

He has said he wanted to stand as the leading candidate for Puigdemont's PdeCat (Catalan Democratic party) in the regional election.

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Whether in Brussels or Barcelona, Puigdemont is at the heart of political jockeying for position to start a campaign that promises to be as bitter as it is decisive to Spain's worst institutional crisis in almost four decades.

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.

An opinion poll published by La Vanguardia shows the December election Rajoy scheduled is too close to call, with projections for a near even split of seats for pro-independence and non-separatist parties. 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 worked his way up to Catalan parliament and represented the political movement for independence. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani denounces the Catalan independence referendum as illegal, saying "No one will ever recognize Catalonia as an independent country".

"This morning the five people wanted by Spain presented themselves to police in Brussels".

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