Catalan saga takes new twist as Puigdemont turns himself in

Posted November 06, 2017

BRUSSELS --Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four former Catalan ministers turned themselves in to Belgian police Sunday, the Brussels prosecutor's office said.

National Court investigating judge Carmen Lamela filed the request with the Belgian prosecutor on Friday evening, and issued separate global search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case the five flee Belgium.

The broadcaster says the four deposed cabinet ministers also reported to police.

Five senior Catalan politicians wanted by Spain had been the subject of a European arrest warrant in the wake of the declaration of Catalonia's regional independence last week. Puigdemont, who is considering standing in a snap election in the region on December 21, has said he did not trust Spanish justice but would cooperate with the Belgian courts.

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The Spanish government last week took back control over the autonomous region.

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.

Shortly after the decision, Puigdemont said on Twitter that the "legitimate government of Catalonia had been sent to jail for its ideas and for having been faithful to the mandate approved by the parliament of Catalonia". A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

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.

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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. 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.

"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.

Catalonia's Parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence on October 27.

Prosecutors had asked Investigative Magistrate Carmen Lamela to order the immediate detention of Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers, who ignored court summonses to appear for questioning on Thursday over their role in an independence referendum.

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