Former Catalan leader faces European Union arrest warrant

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Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four colleagues have handed themselves in to police in Belgium.

A Spanish judge has now issued a European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont in response to a request by Spanish state prosecutors.

The fight between Spain and Catalonia's separatists reached a Belgian judge on Sunday after the region's deposed leader and four ex-ministers surrendered in Brussels to face possible extradition to Madrid for allegedly plotting a rebellion.

The crisis was sparked by the disputed independence referendum on 1 October and Mr Puigdemont's subsequent declaration of independence for Catalonia.

November 2: A Spanish judge jails nine former officials of Catalonia's separatist government, and deliberates issuing a possible arrest warrant for Puigdemont, who remained in Belgium while the others were questioned in Madrid about the region's bid for independence.

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Catalan is relatively autonomous from Spain in several ways, including having its own local government led by Puigdemont.

According to Belgian procedures, prosecutors must bring suspects to a judge, who has 24 hours to decide whether or not to approve the arrest warrant.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo has said that any politician can stand in the election unless he or she has been convicted of a crime. Rajoy called elections for December 21. On Thursday the 54-year-old ignored a summons to appear before the same judge in Madrid.

Whether in Brussels or Barcelona, Puigdemont is at the heart of political jockeying for position to start a campaign that promises to be as bitter as it is decisive to Spain's worst institutional crisis in almost four decades. But, he said, the main goals must be to recover the self-rule of the region and the release of the jailed separatists, not another immediate attempt to culminate the independence drive.

Hundreds of pro-secession Catalans gathered in town squares across the region Sunday to put up posters in support of independence and to demand the release of the jailed separatists. He said the Spanish courts "can't guarantee a fair and independent sentence that will be free of the enormous weight and influence of politics". The declaration is deemed mostly symbolic because it is unlikely Spain or the global community will recognize an independent Catalonia.

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