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Spanish Judge Mulls International Arrest Warrant for Catalonia's Ex-President

Police officers stand outside the National Court, at right, in Madrid, Spain, Nov. 2, 2017.
Police officers stand outside the National Court, at right, in Madrid, Spain, Nov. 2, 2017.

A Spanish judge is considering whether to issue an international arrest warrant for Catalonia's ousted leader Carles Puigdemont over the region's contested independence drive.

Puigdemont flew to Brussels with four members of his cabinet this week after Spanish authorities removed him and the 13-member Cabinet from office for pushing ahead with secession.

If an arrest warrant is issued, Puigdemont will fight extradition without seeking political asylum, according to his Belgian lawyer.

Puigdemont had been 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 are investigated on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement connected to their push for the region's independence from Spain.

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

In a short 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. I demand respect for all political options and I demand the end of the political repression," he said.

Puigdemont said the imprisonment of former Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras and 8 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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