Spain issues EU arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Eight Catalan politicians have been held in "preventative detention"

Spain issues EU arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Sacked Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont smiles after a press conference in Brussels, 31-10-2017. Image: Olivier Matthys/AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 19.45

A Spanish judge has issued European arrest warrants for ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four other separatist leaders.

Mr Puigdemont and the former members of his cabinet travelled to Belgium on Monday, after being accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

National court judge Carmen Lamela has filed a request with the Belgian prosecutor to detain the five and also issued separate international search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case they flee the country.

Mr Puigdemont has said he did not flee from Spain and insisted he "will not run from justice".

"I will go to the justice authorities, but the real justice authorities," he told Belgian media.

"I have told my lawyer to tell Belgian justice authorities that I am completely ready to cooperate."

The deposed leader added that it was "very clear that the Spanish justice authorities had become politicised".

He also insisted he would stand in Catalonia's snap election on December 21st, saying: "It's possible to run a campaign from anywhere".

On Thursdat, the deposed regional president urged supporters to demonstrate against Spanish authorities "peacefully and with respect for everybody's opinions."

There have been large protests throughout the region after eight members of the dissolved Catalan parliament were jailed.

These people in Barcelona, who are in favour of a breakaway, think Madrid has gone too far.

Reacting to the jailing of his former colleagues on Twitter, Mr Puigdemont said that "the legitimate government of Catalonia has been jailed for its ideas."

Posting with a photo of protesters, he added: "The serene clamour of the Catalans is of freedom."

Speaking on Catalan television he said: "The fury with which the Spanish government has attacked a beautiful European nation is outrageous and is threatening us all."

The Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau and other members of Barcelona City Council hold a protest in front of the Palau de la Generalitat in support of defendant Catalan politicians, 02-11-2017. Image:  Jordi Boixareu/Zuma Press/PA Images

Mr Puigdemont's lawyer Paul Bekaert has insisted his client would cooperate with the courts and Belgian police if necessary.

"If they ask, he will cooperate with Spanish and Belgian justice," said Mr Bekaert, who ruled out the possibility of his client asking for asylum in Belgium by saying it was "off the table."

Court summons

Thursday night's protests came after 20 secessionist leaders were summoned to two courts in Madrid to answer questions - with only 15 turning up.

Judge Carmen Lamela then ordered eight ministers who did adhere with the summons to be jailed unconditionally. A ninth could be set free if they pay a bond of €50,000.

Lawyers for the nine detained former ministers said they planned to appeal the move and insisted they want the people of Catalonia to stay calm.

Judge Lamela said she had ordered the politicians to remain in "preventative detention" because she believed there was a flight risk.

Investigation

The Supreme Court has adjourned hearings until November 9th to give six other Catalan politicians time to prepare a defence.

An investigation could take years before it leads to a trial.

An arrest warrant makes it virtually impossible for Mr Puigdemont to stand in a snap election, called for December 21st, after the Catalan government was dissolved by Spain in light of the vote for independence.