Ex-Catalonia leader turns himself in to Belgian police

Saul Bowman
November 6, 2017

Since then, eight politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trial, and arrest warrants have been issued for five others, including Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to try to run a government in exile. The judge filed the request with the Belgian prosecutor to detain the five former Catalan officials, and issued separate worldwide search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case they attempt to flee Belgium.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked constitutional powers last month to reassert his authority over Catalonia and fire Puigdemont and his government.

A spokesman for the Brussels' prosecutor's office, Gilles Dejemeppe, said the five presented themselves to federal police and have been in custody since 9am local time.

The referendum on Catalonia's independence was deemed illegal by the Spanish courts, but went ahead amid scuffles with authorities.

Mr Puigdemont has said he would be willing to co-operate with the Belgian judiciary but that he had lost confidence in Spanish justice, which he claimed has become politicised.

Puigdemont has said he refuses to attend any hearings unless he can be guaranteed that the judicial process he faces will be fair.

The central government in Madrid announced it would take direct control of the region as a result, and called new elections for December 21.

The five former officials are wanted on charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

Mr Puigdemont wrote in Dutch on his Twitter account on Saturday that he was "prepared to fully co-operate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain".

Also in the interview he said that he was "willing to be a candidate" in the regional elections on December 21 and added that he could campaign from overseas.

Nine other deposed Catalan Cabinet members heeded a Spanish judge's summons for questioning in Madrid on Thursday. He worked his way up to Catalan parliament and represented the political movement for independence.

"You mustn't forget that we're the legitimate government", Puigdemont said. The declaration is deemed mostly symbolic because it is unlikely Spain or the worldwide community will recognize an independent Catalonia.

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