Catalan leaders held in Belgium on Spanish charges

06 November, 2017, 01:22 | Author: Phil Peters
  • Belgium confirms receipt of arrest warrants for Catalan politicians

The five presented themselves to federal police at around 9 a.m. (0800 GMT; 3 a.m. EST), Brussels prosecutor's office spokesman Gilles Dejemeppe.

The five former Catalan leaders were taken into custody days after Spain issued European arrest warrants for them. A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

National Court investigating judge Carmen Lamela filed the request with the Belgian prosecutor on Friday evening, and issued separate worldwide search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case the five flee Belgium.

Political forces in Catalonia are hurriedly jockeying for position to start a campaign that promises to be as bitter as it is decisive to Spain's worst institutional crisis in almost four decades.

Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont called on Saturday for separatists to unite in a December election called by Spain to try to avert a disputed push for the region's independence. Around 92 percent of people who voted were in favor of seceding from Spain.

Parties have until Tuesday to register as coalitions or they must run separately.

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DW reporter Charlotte Chelsom-Pill, who was at the scene, said demonstrators chanted "We are not afraid" as they waited for the return of the six Catalan officials who appeared in the Supreme Court. But, he said, the main goals must be to recover the self-rule of the region and the release of the jailed separatists, not another immediate attempt to culminate the independence drive.

Puigdemont and his fellow separatists claimed that a referendum on secession held on October 1 gave them a mandate for independence, even though it had been prohibited by the nation's highest court and only 43 percent of the electorate took part in the vote, which failed to meet global standards and was disrupted by violent police raids.

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. He worked his way up to Catalan parliament and represented the political movement for independence.

Hundreds of pro-secession Catalans gathered in towns across the region on Sunday.

Puigdemont married a fellow journalist, Marcela Topor, in 2000 and together they have two daughters.

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