Arrest warrant out for sacked Catalan leader

Protesters standing behind a "Democracy" sign in Barcelona yesterday as members of the deposed Catalan government were being questioned in Madrid.
Protesters standing behind a "Democracy" sign in Barcelona yesterday as members of the deposed Catalan government were being questioned in Madrid.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Puigdemont now in Belgium; eight former members of separatist government jailed

MADRID • A Spanish judge yesterday issued a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his sacked Cabinet, now in Belgium, after they failed to appear at a High Court hearing, the La Vanguardia daily newspaper said.

Spain's state prosecutor had asked the judge to issue such a warrant earlier in the day.

Eight former members of Catalonia's deposed separatist government were also jailed pending further investigation over the region's push for independence.

A ninth former minister, Mr Santi Vila, who stepped down from the Catalan Cabinet before a unilateral declaration of independence last Friday and has since then been pushing for a negotiated solution with the government, was granted bail of €50,000 (S$79,200).

The arrest warrant makes it virtually impossible for Mr Puigdemont to stand in a snap election in the wealthy region called by the Spanish government for Dec 21.

Among the eight former government members sent to jail without bail is Mr Oriol Junqueras, Mr Puigdemont's deputy.

Mr Puigdemont said on Wednesday that he would ignore a court order to return to Spain to answer charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds stemming from the region's secessionist push.

His lawyer in Belgium, where he has travelled with four members of his sacked Cabinet, said the climate in Spain was "not good" and his client wanted to maintain some distance, but he would cooperate with the courts.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sacked Mr Puigdemont and his government last Friday, hours after the Catalan Parliament made a unilateral declaration of independence - a vote boycotted by the opposition and declared illegal by Spanish courts.

Five senior regional lawmakers and the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Ms Carme Forcadell, were also summoned by the Supreme Court, which handles the cases of people who enjoy parliamentary immunity.

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to give one more week to the Speaker and the Catalan lawmakers to prepare their defence and a new hearing will take place next Thursday.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2017, with the headline 'Arrest warrant out for sacked Catalan leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe