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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Catalonia: Spain issues warrant for sacked Catalan leader’s arrest as ex-ministers are held in jails

A European warrant has been issued for the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, who is in Belgium with four of his sacked ministers

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont made a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of "the legitimate government of Catalonia". TV3 via Reuters
Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont made a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of "the legitimate government of Catalonia". TV3 via Reuters

A European warrant has been issued by a Spanish judge for the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the sacked Catalan leader, his lawyer said.

The announcement, made on Flemish television, comes as a Spanish high court judge remanded eight former Catalan ministers in custody in Madrid.

The detained ministers, who include Mr Puigdemont’s deputy, are being held pending a potential trial for alleged sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

In a statement, Mr Puigdemont called for the release of the ministers, adding that the situation was “no longer an internal Spanish affair".

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"The international community, and especially the European community, must realise the danger these attitudes represent," he said.

Mr Puigdemont, who travelled to Belgium with four members of his sacked cabinet, would fight a bid to extradite him back to Spain, his lawyer Paul Bekaert said.

"I have just received word from my client that indeed it (the warrant) has been issued against the president and four other ministers who are in Belgium," Mr Bekaert told the VRT channel.

"Practically it means that the Spanish judiciary will now send an extradition request to federal prosecutors in Brussels," he said.

Spain has been in the grips of a constitutional crisis after an independence referendum was held in the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia. The Catalan government was dismissed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last week after it declared independence from Spain and direct rule was imposed.

Mr Puigdemont’s lawyer said he would remain in Belgium and appeal should an extradition request be approved by the Belgian authorities.

“He has pledged his full cooperation with the Belgian authorities," Mr Bekaert added.

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