Spain issues worldwide arrest warrant for ex-Catalan leader


The ousted leader of Catalonia was lying low on Saturday in a bid to avoid extradition after justice officials in Belgium received a European warrant for his arrest from Spain.

The prosecutor has asked the National Court judge to issue an worldwide arrest warrant against them.

"We will study it, we will give it to an investigative judge maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow", Van der Sypt told Reuters.

A European Union arrest warrant was also issued for four other Catalan ministers who failed to show up and are also thought to be in Belgium, a court statement said. Puigdemont spoke at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday and appeared on Belgian state television on Friday.

Puigdemont could apply for political asylum during the extradition process.

"The EU Framework Decision provides that the final decision must be taken within 60 days, with an extension to 90 days under exceptional circumstances", the Belgian justice ministry said in a statement. Judge Lamela questioned them on Thursday and ordered all eight to be jailed without bail because of what she said was the risk that they would persist in trying to achieve secession for Catalonia while they are under criminal investigation.

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Mr Puigdemont and the four ex-members of his cabinet travelled to Belgium on Monday after being accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. He weighed in on a debate among secessionists in Catalonia regarding strategy for the December snap election Spain's government has called as part of its temporary takeover of the restive region.

He has said he wanted to stand as the leading candidate for Puigdemont's PdeCat (Catalan Democratic party) in the regional election.

"If (Spain) wants democratic elections, if it wants to show that it is really democratic, it is necessary that it releases the main leaders of one of the options that will run for elections", Republic Left general secretary Marta Rovira said.

Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Omnium Cultural have spearheaded the civil society efforts to achieve secession for the northeastern region.

Madrid last month dissolved Catalonia's parliament after regional lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain off the back of a banned referendum on the issue.

The 7.5 million people of Catalonia, which until this past week had considerable autonomy, are fiercely proud of their language and culture but are also deeply divided about the push for independence.