Spanish judge issues European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader

Earlier in the day, Puigdemont gave an interview on Belgian television in which he said he was not looking to evade justice, but that he wanted "the true justice (of Belgium) not of Spain".

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Spanish High Court judge Carmen Lamela on Friday evening issues a European arrest warrant for the sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four former members of his cabinet who are currently in Brussels after failing to appear in court in Madrid on Thursday.

Lamela, who on Thursday sent nine former members of Puigdemont’s government to prison on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds, added “disobedience” and “prevarication”, to those charges for Puigdemont and other four members remaining in Brussels.

The warrant means Puigdemont and the four former members of his government will have to be arrested and appear before a judge in Belgium. If they accept to return to Spain, they will do so within 10 days, but if they refuse judicial proceedings could last up to 60 days.

The Belgian prosecutor’s office said it has received Spain’s arrest warrant and the prosecutor will study it before it will be given to a judge, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

“I confirm that we have received it. We are waiting for translation and then we will study it,” El Pais quoted spokesman of the Belgian prosecutor’s office Eric Van der Sijpt as saying.

Earlier in the day, Puigdemont gave an interview on Belgian television in which he said he was not looking to evade justice, but that he wanted “the true justice (of Belgium) not of Spain”.

He added that he was also willing to be a candidate in the Catalan regional elections scheduled for Dec. 21 — something that would be possible under Spanish law unless he has been found guilty beforehand, which is virtually impossible as he has not yet been formally charged.

Santi Vila, the only former member of the deposed Catalan government to be offered the chance of bail by judge Lamela on Thursday, left prison on Friday after paying the bail which had been set at 50,000 euros (58,048 U.S. dollars).

The other eight members were held in custody without having bail set.

Meanwhile, the High Court rejected the appeal of the leaders of pro-Catalan independence groups, Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly, against Judge Lamela’s decision taken on Oct. 17 to remand them in custody without bail pending investigation on charges of sedition.

Sedition carried a maximum prison sentence of 25 years in Spain, while the Spanish media comment that the former members of the Catalan government could face jail terms of up to 50 years if found guilty on all counts.

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