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emfizz.com December 14, 2017


Spanish judge withdraws arrest warrant for Puigdemont

06 December 2017, 01:18 | Terri Saunders

Some of jailed Catalan politicians are bailed as Puigdemont fights on in Belguim

Catalan members of the Spanish parliament speak to the press outside Estremera prison outside of Madrid on Monday. A judge from Spain's Supreme Court granted bail to six imprisoned former members of the Catalan government while two other politicians

Spain's Supreme Court has withdrawn its global warrant for Carles Puigdemont, the ousted Catalan leader.

The warrant was originally issued after Puigdemont and Antonio Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati travelled to Belgium in the wake of the Catalan unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.

The Belgian judge will decide on December 14 whether to uphold the European arrest warrant, their lawyers said after the hearing.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after declaring his region independent from Spain in a referendum that saw voters in Catalonia vote overwhelmingly to secede from Madrid's control - although the ballot was not sanctioned by Madrid and less than half of the electorate turned out to vote.

Official campaigning for a 21 December regional election, which was called after Puigdemont's government was dissolved, started on Tuesday.

Madrid hopes the elections will restore normality to the wealthy northeastern region, which declared independence in vain following the referendum.

The five still face Spanish arrest warrants and would be arrested on their return to Spain where they would face charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds and, in Puigdemont's case, disobedience. The charges carry maximum penalties of decades in prison.

Puigdemont and four other former Catalan ministers have been fighting their extradition from Belgium.

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"We also highlighted the danger for the impediment of their human rights in Spain", Bekaert said.

The Spanish government called the early elections in a bid to find a democratic way out of the nation's worst crisis in almost four decades.

Catalans remain deeply split on independence, and several polls suggest pro-secession parties might struggle to win enough seats to form a new regional government.

The poll showed parties that back Spanish unity would capture 68-69 seats.

Puigdemont's party, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), could not be immediately reached for comment.

"Those who commit criminal acts must place themselves at the mercy of legal rulings", Zoido said. Puigdemont would be arrested if he went to Spain, he said.

He said under European law the Belgian court could reject some of the reasons behind the warrant, which could possibly limit the charges brought against Puigdemont and the four others and create inequalities with Catalan leaders on trial in Spain.



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