Spanish judge issues European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Puigdemont

Spanish judge issues European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Puigdemont

Madrid:A Spanish judge issued an European Union arrest warrant for Catalonia's deposed separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, a day after he failed to appear for questioning over his role in the region's tumultuous independence drive.

The Belgian justice ministry said there were "some situations" where European arrest warrants can be refused, but added: "If the decision is to execute the (warrant), the person is in principle surrendered to the authorities of the issuing state within 10 days following the decision".

"I told my lawyers to tell the Belgian judiciary I am completely ready to cooperate", Puigdemont said. "Everything goes through direct contact between the justice authorities".

"I'm ready to be a candidate", Puigdemont told RTBF television in Belgium, where he is now holed up after leaving Catalonia at the weekend. The regional government was removed from power and an early election was called for Dec 21. "For Catalonia, for the release of political prisoners and for the republic", he said on Twitter.

Puigdemont didn't elaborate or say where he is.

Van den Andreu, the lawyer defending other ex-members of the regional government, said whether his clients were jailed "was already predetermined" before they appeared in court.

Miquel Iceta, leader of Catalonia's Socialists, said at a separate rally: "We have members of the government in prison, and others in Brussels trying to avoid the law".




The 54-year-old has been holed up in Belgium since Monday and ignored a summons to appear before the judge in Madrid, saying he wants guarantees he will receive a fair trial.

One of them, Republican Left's president, Oriol Junqueras, is the region's former vice president.

The former leader has said that he was not fleeing the Spanish court system but instead was seeking European support for his region's independence bid.

Told of Puigdemont's unity call, the ERC's deputy leader, Marta Rovira, responded simply: "We must win (the elections) and that is what we will do".

Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Omnium Cultural have spearheaded the civil society efforts to achieve secession for the northeastern region. He had resigned from Mr Puigdemont's Cabinet in protest before the declaration of independence.

Spain's Constitution says the nation is "indivisible" and that all matters of national sovereignty must be handled by the Spanish Parliament.

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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