Ex-Catalan leader Puigdemont turns himself in to Belgian police

Casey Dawson
November 6, 2017

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who faced an worldwide arrest warrant for his role in an ill-fated declaration of independence, turned himself in voluntarily to Belgian police on Sunday.

Catalonia's parliament proclaimed independence on October 27 based on the results of the October 1 referendum.

Belgian legal experts have suggested extradition would take 15 days - with a further 45 days if the Catalan politicians appeal against the process.

A senior official of Mr Puigdemont's party, the centre-right Democratic Party of Catalonia, said on Sunday that the party wanted Mr Puigdemont to continue as its candidate. Rajoy called elections for December 21.

Since then, eight politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trial in Spain, and five others, including Puigdemont, are being held in Belgium, where he's trying to run a government in exile.

"Puigdemont and his ministers were detained", Dejemeppe said.

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A judge in Madrid was on Friday set to issue an European Union arrest warrant for Catalonia's deposed leader over his region's tumultuous independence drive, in a move likely to take tensions to a new level in Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

Shortly after the decision, Puigdemont said on Twitter that the "legitimate government of Catalonia had been sent to jail for its ideas and for having been faithful to the mandate approved by the parliament of Catalonia".

A Spanish judge has now issued a European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont in response to a request by Spanish state prosecutors. The judge filed the request with the Belgian prosecutor to detain the five former Catalan officials, and issued separate global search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case they attempt to flee Belgium. The ninth spent a night behind bars before posting bail and being released.

"You mustn't forget that we're the legitimate government", Puigdemont said. The other eight could remain in custody for up to four years.

Carmen Lamela, a judge in Spain's National Court, asked the Belgian prosecutor's office to arrest Puigdemont and four ministers in the dissolved Catalan government who ignored a court order to appear before a judge Thursday.

"If we add the issue of independence, we won't get as many people to support us", said Mas, who was the first Catalan leader to harness the political momentum for secession.

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