Prosecutors seek EU arrest warrant for former Catalan leader


The Spanish state prosecutor has asked for a Europe-wide arrest warrant to be issued for ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont after he failed to appear in court.

Spain’s high court, the Audiencia Nacional, had ordered Puigdemont and 13 other ministers to appear on Thursday, but only nine turned up.
The state prosecutor in Madrid later asked the court to issue national and European arrest warrants for Puigdemont, and four other former ministers, all of whom are believed to be in the Belgian capital, Brussels.
Puigdemont’s no-show was the latest act of defiance from the renegade leader, who has caused consternation in Madrid following the referendum and the Catalan parliament’s declaration of unilateral independence weeks later.
Puigdemont fled Spain and appeared in Brussels on Monday. On the same day, Spain’s state prosecutor announced he was seeking charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against the deposed president and the 13 ex-ministers. The charges follow Catalonia’s October 1 independence referendum, ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
A spokesperson for Puigdemont said he would remain in Brussels with the other four ministers.
Prosecutors sought to have all nine ministers who attended the high court session Thursday detained, eight of them without bail.
A separate case against six other Catalan lawmakers was adjourned at the Supreme Court. All six, including parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, showed up to the session.
According to Puigdemont’s spokesperson, the nine ministers turned up to court Thursday to make a complaint against the Spanish judicial system’s “lack of guarantees” to allow the pursuit of political ideas.
Puigdmeont, who still considers himself Catalonia’s rightful leader, denied he was evading justice, claiming that the charges had no legal basis and sought “only to punish ideas.”
“We are facing a political trial,” his spokesperson said.
Puigdemont’s lawyer said he would cooperate with Spanish and Belgian authorities, even though he did not appear before judges Thursday, his Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert told Reuters.
“The climate is not good, it is better to take some distance,” he said.
In response, Madrid sacked Puigdemont and his government, and stripped Catalonia of its cherished autonomy.
Puigdemont has denied he traveled to Brussels to seek political asylum. In public remarks on Tuesday, he claimed he was in the Belgian capital to “to act with freedom and safety” and to seek support from Europe in finding a diplomatic solution.

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