Ex-Catalan leader appears before Belgian authorities over arrest warrant

Spain seeks to extradite Carles Puigdemont as Catalonia braces for general strike

Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president sought by Spanish courts over his role in the region’s failed independence bid, has been released on bail after testifying before judicial authorities in Belgium in response to the reactivation of an international arrest warrant against him this week.

News of his court appearance came as Catalonia prepared for a general strike and a huge demonstration in Barcelona after a fourth night of violent protests triggered by the jailing of nine pro-independence leaders by the Spanish supreme court on Monday.

Puigdemont, who led the region between January 2016 and October 2017, fled to Belgium to avoid arrest after being sacked by the Spanish government for staging an illegal referendum and making a unilateral declaration of independence two years ago.

In a statement, Puigdemont’s office said: “[Carles] Puigdemont, accompanied by his lawyers, has appeared voluntarily before the Belgian authorities in response to the European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish supreme court.”

It added that he was complying with the warrant but remained opposed to being extradited.

Puigdemont’s lawyers said he was ordered to remain in Belgium but could seek permission to travel abroad.

The former president told reporters waiting outside the prosecutor’s office in Brussels he did not fear justice “from a fair court”.

Spain’s supreme court reissued the warrant – on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds – after Puigdemont’s former vice-president and eight other independence leaders were jailed for the same offences on Monday.

A member of Puigdemont’s team told the Belgian daily Le Soir that Puigdemont had decided to go to the police “on his initiative”.

Spain filed the European arrest warrant to Belgian authorities on Tuesday. Belgium’s federal prosecutor insisted the Spanish refile it in one of Belgium’s three official languages – French, Dutch and German – or English. The translated document had been expected to arrive next week.

Belgian lawyers had warned that the procedure was long and slow, especially if contested by Puigdemont’s lawyers.

The former president has so far managed to avoid extradition from Germany and Belgium. One of the complications is that Belgium does not have have an equivalent offence of sedition.

Spain’s supreme court said that although Puigdemont was elected as a member of the European parliament in May, he could not claim parliamentary immunity as he had neither taken up his seat nor sworn on the Spanish constitution – a prerequisite under the country’s electoral rules.

• This article was amended on 23 October 2019. An earlier version said Flemish was one of Belgium’s official languages, but Flemish is a dialect of Dutch. This has been corrected.

Contributors

Sam Jones in Madrid and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
European arrest warrant issued for ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont
Spanish judge’s move comes day after former members of Catalan cabinet remanded in custody over region’s independence push

Sam Jones in Madrid and Daniel Boffey in Brussels

03, Nov, 2017 @9:54 PM

Article image
Carles Puigdemont: court rejects new bid to arrest Catalan ex-president
Supreme court turns down request from Spanish prosecutors to reactivate international warrant

Sam Jones in Madrid

22, Jan, 2018 @1:27 PM

Article image
Catalan leaders facing rebellion charges flee to Belgium
Carles Puigdemont to give press conference in Brussels at lunchtime on Tuesday, Belgian lawyer says

Sam Jones in Barcelona

31, Oct, 2017 @9:37 AM

Article image
Exclusive: Puigdemont vows to lead Catalan government in exile
Fugitive says his ‘Council of the Republic’ will continue drive for independence from Belgium

Owen Bowcott in Brussels and Sam Jones in Madrid

02, Mar, 2018 @4:45 PM

Article image
Puigdemont: time for 'deeds, not gestures' on Catalan independence
Ex-president vows to continue campaign from Belgium after international warrant dropped

Sam Jones in Madrid

25, Jul, 2018 @12:41 PM

Article image
Catalan leader calls for mediation with Spain over independence
Carles Puigdemont says commission ‘cannot look the other way’ after almost 900 were injured in referendum crackdown

Sam Jones and Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

02, Oct, 2017 @1:26 PM

Article image
Catalonia crisis: deposed leader Puigdemont says he'll respect elections
In latest twist to independence drama, Carles Puigdemont tells press conference in Brussels he will return home if fair judicial process is guaranteed

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels and Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

31, Oct, 2017 @6:06 PM

Article image
Carles Puigdemont: what will the Belgian authorities do next?
Former Catalan president and his four ministers turned themselves in to the federal prosecutor on Sunday

Daniel Boffey Brussels

05, Nov, 2017 @3:24 PM

Article image
Will Belgium hand Carles Puigdemont over to Spain?
Extradition of the Catalan leader could take years, in a case that might test the limits of the trust between the EU partners

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

02, Nov, 2017 @5:56 PM

Article image
Catalan police chief appears in court to face charges of rebellion
Josep Lluís Trapero faces up to 11 years in prison over alleged role in failed bid for independence

Sam Jones in Madrid

21, Jan, 2020 @7:27 AM