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Spain points warrant for ousted Catalan chief in exile in Belgium

BRUSSELS — The ousted chief of Catalonia remained the topic of a European arrest warrant Saturday as questions mounted over how lengthy he would elude the Spanish justice system by staying undercover in Belgium and delaying extradition. 

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and a number of other members of his separatist authorities fled north to Brussels after Spanish authorities eliminated the area’s high officers from workplace every week in the past. It’s thought that Puigdemont and 4 others nonetheless are in Belgium, however sources near them wouldn’t reveal their whereabouts.

Puigdemont wrote in Dutch on his Twitter account Saturday that he would “cooperate” with Belgian authorities, though his lawyer has mentioned the pro-independence politician would combat a compelled return to Spain. Puigdemont has mentioned he won’t return to Spain except he receives ensures of a good trial, BBC Information experiences. 

“We’re ready to completely cooperate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain,” Puigdemont wrote in Dutch on his Twitter account. 

Prosecutors in Belgium’s capital, Brussels, mentioned they have been inspecting the arrest warrants for Puigdemont and 4 of his associates Saturday and hope to launch extradition proceedings as quickly as doable. 

Federal prosecutors in Belgium shared the warrants with their metropolis counterparts resulting from hyperlinks the 5 politicians from Catalonia must Brussels, a press release from the Brussels prosecutors’ workplace mentioned.

The assertion didn’t clarify what these hyperlinks are. Puigdemont spoke at a information convention in Brussels on Tuesday and appeared on Belgian state tv on Friday.

Apart from the Dutch tweet he posted on Saturday, Puigdemont additionally despatched a Twitter message written in Catalan to political followers in northeastern Spain. He weighed in on a debate amongst secessionists in Catalonia concerning technique for the December snap election Spain’s authorities has referred to as as a part of its momentary takeover of the restive area.

“It is the second for all democrats to unite. For Catalonia, for the liberty of political prisoners and the Republic,” Puigdemont wrote, endorsing requires pro-secession political events to unite in a coalition for the upcoming election.

Spanish authorities spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo mentioned Friday that politicians, even those that are jailed on suspicion of against the law, can run within the upcoming election except they’re convicted earlier than it takes place. Puigdemont has left the door open to working.

Again in Barcelona, the federal government seat of Catalonia, pro-union events criticized Puigdemont for his flight to Europe’s capital 1,066 kilometers (662 miles) away.

Albert Rivera, the chief of the liberal Residents get together, mentioned that Puigdemont had gotten what he requested for when he pushed forward with plans for secession regardless of warnings from Spanish authorities that he was breaking the legislation.

“Mr. Puigdemont, wherever you’re, come again to Spain and present your face earlier than the legislation,” Rivera mentioned. “If you as soon as bragged about flouting the legislation, you can not now be indignant when a decide opens an investigation into your acts.”

Miquel Iceta, chief of Catalonia’s Socialists, mentioned at a separate rally: “We have now members of the federal government in jail, and others in Brussels making an attempt to keep away from the legislation. That is time to construct bridges, not increase frontiers.”

Puigdemont and the 4 former ministers are being looked for 5 crimes, together with riot, sedition and embezzlement, for his or her roles in pushing regional lawmakers to declare independence from Spain.

However the longer Puigdemont can delay his arrest and extradition, the higher probability he would have of being an element within the Dec. 21 election.

Authorized consultants have informed The Related Press that the method of getting one other nation’s suspect turned over to face prices – from arrest to extradition, together with appeals – may take about two months in Belgium.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens mentioned his authorities may have no affect over the way forward for Puigdemont or the opposite Catalan officers as a result of the European arrest warrant “is a very authorized process.”

He mentioned, not like a standard worldwide extradition, “the manager energy doesn’t play any function within the EAW process. All the pieces goes via direct contact between the justice authorities.”

Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer didn’t reply calls requesting touch upon the arrest warrant however has mentioned his shopper would combat extradition to Spain with out requesting political asylum. Belgian federal prosecutors mentioned they may query Puigdemont in coming days.

“We are going to examine it, and put it within the fingers of an investigating decide,” prosecutors’ spokesman Eric Van Der Sijpt informed The Related Press. “That could possibly be tomorrow, the day after and even Monday … we aren’t in any hurry.”

In all, Spanish prosecutors are investigating 20 regional politicians for riot and different crimes that could possibly be punishable by as much as 30 years in jail.

Whereas Puigdemont and his 4 aides hid in Belgium, 9 members of his deposed authorities complied with a summons to look in a Madrid court docket. Nationwide Courtroom decide Carmen Lamela jailed all of them, though agreed to let one former regional minister go free on bail.

On the opposite facet of the political divide over Catalonia, a senior official of a giant separatist get together, the Republican Left, conditioned her get together’s participation within the Dec. 21 elections on the discharge of all of the jailed separatists.

One in every of them, Republican Left’s president, Oriol Junqueras, is the area’s former vice chairman.

“If (Spain) needs democratic elections, if it needs to indicate that it’s actually democratic, it’s needed that it releases the principle leaders of one of many choices that may run for elections,” Republic Left common secretary Marta Rovira mentioned.

Rovira appeared to situation a veiled menace that, saying that if her get together’s calls for weren’t met, separatists may attempt to scuttle the elections by encouraging pro-independence native officers to not handle the election or open their city halls as polling locations.

“Elections right here can solely occur right here if we are saying they do,” Rovira mentioned.

Fueled by questions of cultural identification and financial malaise, secessionist sentiment has skyrocketed to succeed in roughly half of the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia, a affluent area that’s pleased with its Catalan language spoken together with Spanish.

The separatist majority of Catalonia’s Parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence on Oct. 27. The subsequent day, Spain’s central authorities used extraordinary constitutional powers to fireside Catalonia’s authorities and dissolve its regional parliament.

Spain’s Structure says the nation is “indivisible” and that every one issues of nationwide sovereignty have to be dealt with by the Spanish Parliament.

Within the Basque metropolis of Bilbao in northern Spain, a number of thousand folks marched Saturday regardless of the rain to protest the intervention of the Spanish authorities in Catalonia’s self-rule. The Basque Nation area has its personal separatist motion.

Extra rallies in help of secession are deliberate for the approaching days in Catalonia.

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