Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Spain court revokes European arrest warrant for Catalonia's Carles Puigdemont

Spain court revokes European arrest warrant for Catalonia's Carles Puigdemont

A Spanish judge withdrew a European arrest warrant on Tuesday against Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan separatist leader who fled to Belgium in the face of charges including rebellion, along with four former members of his regional cabinet.

The highly polarized parliamentary election set for December 21 is shaping up as a plebiscite between Catalans who support secession and those who favor remaining in Spain.

On Monday, a Belgian court said it would rule on December 14 whether to extradite Puigdemont whilst a court in Spain made a decision to keep the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and three other senior Catalan politicians in jail on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

The announcement came a day after a Belgian judge postponed for a second time, until December 14, a ruling on whether to honor the warrant request.

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The Associated Press reports that the five are facing charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement related to their roles in staging an independence referendum in October that Spain declared illegal.

The decision does not mean that Puigdemont, who faces charges of rebellion, would not be arrested if he returned to Spain, where he is still wanted by judicial authorities.

Puigdemont, Junqueras and other former ministers are candidates for the elections, despite being in exile or prison.

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. Polls show both sides neck and neck on a high turnout. It had ERC, Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and the far-left anti-establishment CUP party winning 66 or 67 of the parliament's 135 seats. But 53-year-old contractor Jose Luis Aguirre said the attempt to unilaterally break away from Spain "is an act that can not be allowed".

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"Those who commit criminal acts must place themselves at the mercy of legal rulings", Zoido said.

Puigdemont gave a televised address from Belgium at a campaign rally on Monday, telling the central government in Madrid that his party would win the election.

Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena said that the individual warrants were no longer valid as the alleged crimes were committed as a group and that the politicians under investigation had illustrated their "intention to return to Spain" in order to run for upcoming elections in Catalonia.

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