Sacked Catalan leader, four former aides turn themselves in to Belgian Police

Posted November 06, 2017

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was taken into custody in Belgium on Sunday, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor said.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for Mr Puigdemont and the other four as Spain seeks their return for an investigation related to Catalonia's independence bid.

The charges the leaders face include sedition, rebellion, misuse of funds, abuse of authority and contempt.

A judge in Madrid was on Friday set to issue an European Union arrest warrant for Catalonia's deposed leader over his region's tumultuous independence drive, in a move likely to take tensions to a new level in Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers fled to Belgium this past week after being removed from power by Spanish authorities as part of an extraordinary crackdown to quash the region's illegal secession claim.

Puigdemont's lawyer in Brussels had previously said that his client plans to fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

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The Brussels prosecutor's office confirmed that the region's former president and his sacked ministers surrendered after Spain issued a warrant for their arrest. A judge ordered jail for eight ousted members of the Catalan government on November 2. A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail. Puigdemont says he will agree to take part in an early regional election scheduled for December 21.

Puigdemont and his allies failed to appear at a high court hearing in Madrid on Thursday.

Protesters with Catalan flags gathered in Barcelona and other Catalan towns to show their support for the jailed pro-independence politicians. The declaration is deemed mostly symbolic because it is unlikely Spain or the global community will recognize an independent Catalonia.

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 worldwide standards and was disrupted by violent police raids.

"This morning the five people wanted by Spain presented themselves to police in Brussels".