Former Catalan leader faces European Union arrest warrant

How Catalonia's Bid for Independence From Spain Unfolded

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A Spanish judge had issued an arrest warrant for them on Saturday. Nine other Catalan leaders have been jailed for their role in an independence push.

Belgium, where a European arrest warrant can be blocked for several mainly procedural reasons, will have a maximum of three months to decide whether to send Puigdemont back to Spain.

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 global standards and was disrupted by violent police raids. That same day, the Spanish Prosecutor's Office announced that it had filed a lawsuit against him, other members of his cabinet, and some regional MPs on rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement charges with the Spanish National Court.

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When asked whether he will be seeking political asylum in Belgium, Puigdemont said that he did not go to Brussels for that reason. After questioning them, the judge ordered eight of them to jail without bail while her investigation continues. Former Business Minister Santi Vila, who stepped down from the cabinet before the independence declaration, was granted bail of 50,000 euros ($58,300).

The Spanish government have said that the jailing of the Catalan politicians is not politically motivated. They fled to Brussels after Madrid's central government imposed direct rule over the autonomous region.

On Friday, a Spanish judge issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont, whose request to testify by videoconference was rejected.

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Puigdemont said on Saturday that he will cooperate with Belgian authorities on the arrest order.

In Brussels, a federal prosecutor said Belgian authorities would study the warrant before handing it to a judge.

The 54-year-old has been holed up in Belgium since Monday and ignored a summons to appear before the judge in Madrid, saying that he wanted guarantees that he would receive a fair trial.

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"If we add the issue of independence, we won't get as many people to support us", said Mas, who was the first Catalan leader to harness the political momentum for secession.

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