La Vanguardia: Spanish judge orders arrest of ousted Catalan leader

Carles Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont

Nine ex-ministers turned up to the high court Thursday after being summoned, while Puigdemont and four other ministers failed to show up and are believed to be in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

A High Court source said the arrest warrant for Puigdemont, who is in Belgium, would "most likely" be issued on Friday.

"When someone doesn't appear after being cited by a judge to testify, in Spain or any other European Union country, normally an arrest warrant is issued", Supreme Court President Carlos Lesmes said, according to Reuters.

The move follows last week's vote by the parliament of Catalonia to declare independence from Spain.

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Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont, fired by central Spanish authorities, has confirmed that along with some members of his disbanded government remain in Brussels waiting a fair trial.

Puigdemont's lawyer in Belgium said his client would stay away from Spain while the political climate was "not good"; but he would cooperate with the courts.

If Puigdemont is arrested it would make it unlikely that he could participate in regional elections, called by Spain after it sacked the Catalan government last week, on December 21.

Former ministers in the deposed Catalan government arrive at court.

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The crimes being probed are punishable with up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

One challenge, Chome said, is to decide what type of offenses and charges will be listed in the warrant, as Belgium does not have the equivalent charges of sedition and rebellion that Puigdemont and his associates could face.

The Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to give one more week to Forcadell and the Catalan lawmakers to prepare their defence and a new hearing will take place on November 9.

Five other senior members of the Catalan parliament, as well as Speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing the same charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court which has yet to hold a hearing.

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