Spanish judge withdraws European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Puigdemont

06 December, 2017, 01:15 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Carles Puigdemont attends a meeting with Catalan mayors in Brussels on November | Emmanuel Dunand  AFP via Getty Images

The decision comes on the first day of the campaign for the Catalan regional elections to be held on December 21.

According to the statement released by the Spanish court, Llarena argued that the European warrant would complicate the overall probe into Catalan leaders.

A Supreme Court spokesman said that the five could still be arrested if they go back to Spain, however, because they are still being sought at home for possible crimes on charges of sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

Photo The ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, third from left, at an event in Brussels with mayors and former councillors from the region this month.

Mr Puigdemont, who is standing for re-election to the regional parliament, would nearly certainly face arrest on his return, as the charges of rebellion and sedition against him have not been lifted.

Madrid called the new elections after the independence declaration, while dismissing Catalonia's government and suspending the region's autonomy.

However, today's ruling by the supreme court judge Pablo Llarena robs Mr Puigdemont and his colleagues of at least one of their gripes against Madrid. He was staying in prison "because they know he is the best candidate", she claimed. Mr. Puigdemont is hoping to run for re-election from Brussels.

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He also "highlighted the danger for the impediment of their human rights" in Spain, which provoked strong condemnation when photographs were published revealing violent attacks on voters by police during the October referendum.

Separatist parties have repeatedly accused Madrid of taking "political prisoners" and "repression", and the decision to keep some Catalan leaders in jail is likely to magnify those claims.

Catalan separatist parties that tried to break away from Spain would lose their absolute majority in regional parliament in elections later this month, an influential opinion poll showed Monday.

Campaigning began on Tuesday, with polls predicting a close race between the pro and anti-independence camps.

Tuesday's action leaves Puigdemont and the ex-officials with two options - return to Spain and be arrested or remain in self-imposed exile.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and fellow opponents of Catalan independence, meanwhile, have hitched their hopes on a record turnout on December 21 to return a legislature in favour of unity with Spain.

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