A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four of his former councilors who remain in Belgium, she jailed eight members of the region’s separatist government pending possible charges over last week’s declaration of independence. The leader’s request to testify by videoconference has been rejected.
National Court judge Carmen Lamela filed the request with the Belgian prosecutor to detain the five and issued separate international search and arrest warrants to alert Europol in case they flee Belgium.
Puigdemont was summoned to appear at Spain’s national court on Thursday to give evidence relating to possible charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds, but failed to appear. He has said he would only return to Spain if he were offered guarantees that the judicial process he would face were fair.
Earlier Friday, Puigdemont told Belgium’s RTBF broadcaster that his prompt departure for Brussels was not actually “fleeing” Catalonia, as he was ready to participate in the snap elections Madrid scheduled following the crackdown on his regional government.
“We will study it and will give it to an investigative judge maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” Van der Sypt told Reuters.
Puigdemont and his aides flew to Brussels after Spanish authorities removed him and his Cabinet from office Saturday for demanding independence. The Spanish government has also called an early regional election for Dec. 21.