Catalan saga takes new twist as Puigdemont turns himself in

Catalan

A Spanish judge has issued a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

The judge issued the European arrest warrants late on Friday for Mr Puigdemont and four of his allies who are also in Belgium, to force them to return to Spain.

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. Spanish prosecutors want to charge Puigdemont, holed up in Belgium, with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

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

The Belgian public prosecutor's office confirmed on Saturday that it had received the warrants, saying a decision would happen within 24 hours of them appearing before a judge.


He said that they have not been arrested and that Mr Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers would be heard by an investigative judge on Sunday afternoon. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy removed him from office in October, but Puigdemont said that he doesn't recognize his removal from office.

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. Rajoy called elections for December 21. While he remains a supporter of an secession he has advocated a negotiated solution with the central government. Spanish authorities have sought Puigdemont's arrest for his connection to the recent attempt of Catalan independence.

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.

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

Thousands of people staged pro-independence protests on Thursday night in several Catalan towns, and parties forming the current coalition Junts Pel Si (Together For Yes) are pushing to run again on a joint ticket at the election.

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