Belgium confirms receipt of arrest warrants for Catalan politicians

Nov 06, 2017, 01:22
Belgium confirms receipt of arrest warrants for Catalan politicians

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four colleagues have handed themselves in to police in Belgium.

Catalonia's referendum on October 1 saw the region overwhelmingly (over 90 percent) voting to break away from Spain. The vote was boycotted by MPs supporting union with Spain. Spanish authorities attempted to stop the vote which they declared illegal.

Puigdemont's lawyer in Belgium also said the arrest warrant had been prepared, but there has not yet been official confirmation from Spain's government.

"For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the republic", Mr Puigdemont said in a tweet that included the hashtag, a site calling for parties to unite against the Spanish government at the ballot box.

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Puigdemont said on Saturday that he will cooperate with Belgian authorities on the arrest order.

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. That same day, the Spanish Prosecutor's Office announced that it had filed a lawsuit against him, other members of his cabinet, and some regional MPs on rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement charges with the Spanish National Court.

Puigdemont, 54, became the president of Catalonia at the beginning of 2016. Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo has said that any politician can run in the election unless he or she has been convicted of a crime.

Puigdemont started off as a journalist, but his interest in Catalonia and its independence led him to shift into politics full-time in 2006.

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Hundreds of pro-secession Catalans gathered in town squares across the region Sunday to put up posters in support of independence and to demand the release of the jailed separatists.

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.

Catalonia's push for independence has triggered Spain's worst political crisis in decades. But the spectacle of the jailed leaders has also reinvigorated the movement and thrust the constitutional crisis into the global spotlight.

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