Friday, 17 November, 2017

Ousted Catalan leader surrenders to police

Carles Puigdemont Spain to issue arrest warrant for Catalan leader
Wilma Wheeler | 06 November, 2017, 01:24

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. Nine former members of Catalonia's separatist government have already been detained.

The crisis was sparked by the disputed independence referendum on 1 October and Mr Puigdemont's subsequent declaration of independence for Catalonia.

Mr Puigdemont - who has said recent events show the Spanish justice system has "become politicised" - has vowed to take part in the poll.

Puigdemont and four former ministers of the Catalan regional government surrendered at 9:17 a.m.in Brussels.

One member of the dismissed cabinet, Santi Vila, was freed after paying bail of 50,000 euros ($58,035) on Friday.

Puigdemont threatens to declare independence if the central government is unwilling to enter into talks with Catalan officials. Later that day, Belgium's prosecutors confirmed they received the arrest warrant for Puigdemont and promised to study it.

That delay could give Mr Puigdemont time to participate, albeit from afar and in largely a symbolic capacity, in the snap regional election called by Spain's government for Catalonia on December 21.

Puigdemont wrote in Dutch in his Twitter account on Saturday that he was "prepared to fully cooperate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain".

His lawyer in Belgium has said that Puigdemont will fight any extradition charges against him.

The investigative judge now has exactly 24 hours to make a decision on whether to keep them in detention or conditionally release them, Gilles Dejemeppe, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor office, told reporters.

Later, however, he added that his client would appeal if a Belgian judge approved an extradition.

He said that wanted to appear before the judges but that did not mean a Spanish court.

"You mustn't forget that we're the legitimate government", Puigdemont said. A judge of the Spain's National Court remanded in jail yesterday accused of sedition Jordi Sanchez, president of the Pro-independence organization Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, leader of Omnium Cultural.

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