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Arrest Warrant Issued for Former Catalan Leader

  • VOA News

A demonstrator waves a pro-independence Catalan flag outside the Palau Generalitat, during a protest against the decision of a judge to jail ex-members of the Catalan government, in Barcelona, Spain, Nov. 3, 2017.

A Spanish judge on Friday issued an international arrest warrant for Catalonia's ousted president, a day after she jailed members of the region's separatist government pending possible charges over last week's declaration of independence.

The national court judge issued the warrant for Carles Puigdemont in response to a request from state prosecutors.

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont appears on a monitor during a live TV interview on a screen in a bar in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 3, 2017.
Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont appears on a monitor during a live TV interview on a screen in a bar in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 3, 2017.

Puigdemont flew to Brussels earlier this week with a handful of his deposed ministers after Spanish authorities removed him and his cabinet from office for pushing ahead with the declaration, despite repeated warnings that it was illegal.

Puigdemont's Belgian attorney said he would fight extradition without seeking political asylum.

The ousted president told Belgian state broadcaster RTBF he would turn himself in to Belgian authorities, "but not to Spanish justice."

He said he would run for re-election and, if need be, run his campaign from Belgium, where he remained in hiding.

Puigdemont told RBTF Friday that he was "ready to be the candidate" in the election, scheduled for late December.

"We can run a campaign anywhere because we're in a globalized world," he said.

The beleaguered president was due to appear at Spain's National Court on Thursday to answer questions in a rebellion case brought by Spanish prosecutors, but he did not show up.

The judge jailed nine former members of Catalonia's separatist government on Wednesday, while they were being investigated on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement connected to their push for achieving the region's independence from Spain.

Santi Vila, Catalonia's regional chief for business, talks to journalists as he leaves the Estremera prison in Madrid, Nov. 3, 2017. He was the lone former member of the Catalan government to be released on bail Friday.
Santi Vila, Catalonia's regional chief for business, talks to journalists as he leaves the Estremera prison in Madrid, Nov. 3, 2017. He was the lone former member of the Catalan government to be released on bail Friday.

She later granted one of them bail at $58,300.

In an earlier address from Brussels broadcast by Catalan regional television TV3, Puigdemont called for the release of "the legitimate government of Catalonia" as hundreds of people gathered outside the Catalan parliament also calling for them to be freed.

"As the legitimate president of Catalonia, I demand the release of the members of my cabinet," he said. "I demand respect for all political options, and I demand the end of the political repression."

Demonstrators holding banners reading in Catalan "Freedom for the political prisoners" gather at the Barcelona town hall, during a protest against the decision of a judge to jail ex-members of the Catalan government, in Barcelona, Spain, Nov. 3, 2017.
Demonstrators holding banners reading in Catalan "Freedom for the political prisoners" gather at the Barcelona town hall, during a protest against the decision of a judge to jail ex-members of the Catalan government, in Barcelona, Spain, Nov. 3, 2017.

Puigdemont said the imprisonment of former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras and eight members of his cabinet was an attack on democracy and not compatible with a "Europe in the 21st century."

Meanwhile, data released Friday showed that unemployment rose sharply in Catalonia in October, more than anywhere else in Spain, as companies fled in the midst of the country's worst political crisis in decades.

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