European arrest warrants issued for ousted Catalonian leader & ministers – lawyer

European arrest warrants issued for ousted Catalonian leader & ministers – lawyer
The lawyer for deposed Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont has confirmed that European arrest warrants for his arrest and of other ministers has been issued following a ruling in the Spanish courts, Reuters reports.

"I have just heard from my client that the warrant has been issued for the president and four of his ministers who are in Belgium," lawyer Paul Bekaert told Belgian news outlet VRT, as cited by Reuters. "Mr. Puigdemont will stay here. He has said that he will fully cooperate with Belgian authorities during the procedure," Bekaert added.

Acting on a request from the state prosecutor, the country's high court also ordered that nine secessionist leaders be jailed, a move which Puigdemont described as “a serious mistake.”

The prosecutor's office asked Judge Carmen Lamela to jail Catalonian Vice-President Oriol Junqueras and eight other officials charged with rebellion, sedition and embezzlement of public funds, while the probe is ongoing.

One of the nine, counselor Santi Vila, who resigned from government before Catalonia declared independence, can be released if he posts bail of €50,000, as per the prosecutor’s request.

According to La Vanguardia, Puigdemont, who didn’t appear in court on Thursday, has been issued with an arrest warrant, which had also been requested by the Spanish prosecutor.

Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert previously said that Puigdemont would “cooperate with Spanish and Belgian justice.”   

On Friday, October 27 the prosecutor filed a complaint against the Catalonian government for crimes it considers “very serious.” The alleged crimes relate to Catalonia’s independence referendum in which the majority of voters opted to secede from Spain.

The Spanish government declared the referendum illegal and launched a crackdown in the region on polling day. Catalonia declared independence from Spain at the end of October but this was overruled by Spain's Constitutional Court. Minutes later the supreme court called on Catalonian officials to testify at Thursday’s court hearings.

Catalonia’s October 1 referendum saw over 90 percent of voters opting to leave Spain. However, fewer than 50 percent of those eligible to vote took part. Pro-independence supporters blamed Madrid – who had declared the poll illegal in advance – for the low turnout. The government’s crackdown included preventing people from entering polling stations, their forcible removal when they did enter, and the confiscation of ballot boxes.

Thousands of extra officers from Spain’s national police and civil guard were deployed ahead of referendum day. More than 900 people were reportedly injured in the ensuing clashes.