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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont turns himself in to Belgian police, report says

06 November 2017, 01:22 | Marta Robbins

Getty Images

Getty Images

A Madrid High Court judge asked Belgium to arrest Puigdemont and four associates after they ignored a court order to return to Spain on Thursday to answer charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust relating to their secessionist campaign.

Mr Puigdemont's lawyer, Paul Bekaert, has already announced that he will "appeal" if a Belgian judge accepts the expected arrest warrant from the National Court judge Carmen Lamela.

A European arrest warrant was issued by Spain, where the government sacked him as leader of the region following the independence referendum.

Dejemeppe said the extradition process could take more than 60 days, well past the December 21 date set for the regional election in Catalonia.

The move has seen Madrid take control of Catalonia's civil service, police force and finances and call the snap election, which could see as many as 150 of the region's top officials replaced.

Shortly after the decision, Puigdemont said on Twitter that the "legitimate government of Catalonia had been sent to jail for its ideas and for having been faithful to the mandate approved by the parliament of Catalonia".

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Puigdemont said that he wasn't evading authorities, but was rather in Belgium to rally European support for his cause.

Mr Puigdemont and several aides fled to Belgium after they were fired by Spanish authorities when politicians in Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain despite repeated warnings that it would violate the nation's constitution. He worked his way up to Catalan parliament and represented the political movement for independence.

"We consider ourselves a legitimate government", Puigdemont told Belgian state television RTBF on Friday.

Also on Thursday, six other Catalan lawmakers appeared in a parallel session in the Supreme Court, where they were given a week to prepare their defense ahead of a new hearing on November 9.

Puigdemont and his fellow separatists claim that an illegal referendum on secession held on October 1 that polled 43 percent of the electorate and failed to meet global standards gives them a mandate for independence. The declaration is deemed mostly symbolic because it is unlikely Spain or the global community will recognize an independent Catalonia.



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