Catalonia

Spain issues arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont

Warrant names the four ex-minister who accompany the dismissed leader in Brussels, as well as adds two charges.

Carles Puigdemont left Spain after Madrid fired him and his government last Saturday [Jordi Bedmar/Generalitat de Catalunya/AFP]

Barcelona, Spain - A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Puigdemont has been in Belgium since Spanish authorities fired him and his cabinet on Saturday after the regional parliament declared independence

Judge Carmen Lamela issued the order on the grounds that it was public knowledge that Puigdemont is in Belgium.

The warrant added two charges: prevarication (lying) and disobedience. 

It also names the four other ex ministers who accompany Puigdemont in Brussels.

Puigdemont told Belgian state TV, RTBF, earlier on Friday that he "did not flee" Spain, but he travelled to Brussels to avoid violence. 

"Violence has never been an option for us," he said. 

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He added that "it is impossible to prepare [a defence]" while in Spain. 

Puigdemont will now face possible extradition from Belgium. 

The Belgian attorney general told Spanish news agency, Efe, earlier this week that if his office receives a warrant for Puigdemont, the "law will be applied".

"If we receive [the warrant], we won't be able to make more comments or conjectures," he said.

Speaking to Dutch media outlet, Puigdemont's lawyer Paul Bekaret said that warrant "will take a while, because [it] has to be translated, and then processed by the federal police". 

Nine ministers jailed

The warrant comes after nine Catalan government officials, including dismissed Vice President Oriol Junqueras, were jailed without bail in Madrid on Thursday on charges of sedition, rebellion, and misuse of funds. 

Barcelona's city council issued a declaration calling for the immediate release of these politicians along with Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, two pro-independence organisers jailed since October 16. 

The declaration was signed by parties from across the political spectrum. Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor of Barcelona, said the declaration was a "great consensus in the defence of freedoms and fundamental rights". 

The only parties that declined to sign the declaration were the centre-left Spanish Socialist Party, the centre-right People's Party, and the populist right Citizens party. 

The accused former officials are required to deposit 6.7 million euros ($7.2m) to cover expected court costs. In the event they are unable to pay the amount, their property will be seized. 

Santi Vila, the former Catalan Business Minister, was the only person granted bail. Vila paid the 50,000 euro ($58,300) fee and is expected to be released pending trial later Friday. 

The Catalan government was sacked last Saturday after it declared independence the previous day. 

The Spanish government took direct control of the breakaway region after applying Article 155 of the constitution the same day.

The political crisis over Catalonia's independence began on October 1 when a disputed referendum met a harsh police crackdown by Spanish police. 

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The Catalan government claims 90 percent of voters chose independence, but turnout was less than 50 percent. 

Spain claims the vote was illegal, contravening the Spanish constitution. 

Hundreds of people are protesting Spain's actions against the Catalan separatists throughout Barcelona.

A group of demonstrators on Passeig de Gracia, one of the largest streets in Barcelona, held signs and posters on Friday calling for the release of "political prisoners". 

The Committee for the Defence of the Republic - a grassroots network of pro-independence protesters that has risen to prominence since October 1 - has called for widespread demonstrations to continue throughout the weekend to "rebuke" the imprisonment of their government.

Source: Al Jazeera News