Ousted Catalan president, 4 others in custody in Brussels

Ousted Catalan president, 4 others in custody in Brussels

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in the form of a video calling for the release of “the legitimate government of Catalonia,” after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leader to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region’s independence push , in Brussels, Belgium, November 2, 2017. TV3 VIA REUTERS TV / REUTERS
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BRUSSELS – Brussels prosecutors said Sunday that ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four ex-regional ministers were taken into custody to start the process of their possible extradition to Spain.

The five presented themselves to the federal police at around 9 a.m. (3 a.m. ET), Brussels prosecutor’s office spokesman Gilles Dejemeppe. He said that they have not been arrested and that Puigdemont and the four members of his disbanded Cabinet will be heard by an investigative judge later in the day.

The Belgian judge will have to decide within 24 hours of what separatist politicians wanted in Spain on suspicion of independence for the northeastern Catalonia in violation of Spain’s Constitution.

Dejemeppe said the judge’s options range from “refusal to execute the European arrest, arresting the people involved, releasing them on conditions or under bail.” He said if they are arrested then they will be sent to jail as the extradition process continues. Dejemeppe said that the whole process from arrest to extradition, could take more than 60 days.

That delay could give Puigdemont time to participate, albeit from afar and in largely a symbolic capacity, in the regional snap election called by Spain’s government for Catalonia on Dec. 21.

 

A senior official of Puigdemont’s party, the center-right Democratic Party of Catalonia, said on Sunday that the party wanted Puigdemont to repeat as its candidate. Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo has said that any politician can run in the election unless he has been convicted of a crime.

Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers fled to Belgium as part of an extraordinary crackdown to the region’s illegal secession claim.

A Spanish National Court judge issued a suspicion of five crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, on Friday, a day after the same judge sent another former Catalan Cabinet members to jail without bail while her investigation continues. A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

Puigdemont wrote in Dutch in his Twitter account on Saturday that he was “prepared to fully cooperate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain.”

Puigdemont’s lawyer in Brussels has already said that his client plans to fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

Political forces in Catalonia are hurryly jockeying for position to start a campaign that promises to be as bitter as it is decisive to Spain’s worst institutional crisis in nearly four decades.

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