Former Catalan leader Puigdemont & 4 ex-ministers granted conditional release in Belgium
Sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers were released after a court in Belgium granted conditional release to them on Monday, AP reports, citing Belgian prosecutors. “The request made this afternoon by the Brussels’ Prosecutor’s Office for the provisional release of all persons sought has been granted by the investigative judge,” according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office.
The five politicians, who previously turned themselves in to police in Belgium, are set to appear in court within 15 days, according to prosecutors. A judicial source told AFP that the hearing will begin on November 17. The Catalan leader and his aides were detained on Sunday after Madrid issued European arrest warrants, citing their failure to show up last week for questioning.
Puigdemont and his allies, including former Agriculture Minister Meritxell Serret, former Health Minister Antoni Comín, former Culture Minister Lluis Puig, and former Education Minister Clara Ponsatí, fled to Belgium as the Spanish government installed direct rule over Catalonia to derail the region’s independence movement.
On Sunday, the ousted Catalan leader said that he would fully cooperate with Belgian authorities. He also said he would not return to Spain unless he is guaranteed a fair and unbiased trial. When asked whether he will be seeking political asylum in Belgium, Puigdemont denied previous reports that he fled to Brussels for that reason.
Over 90 percent voted in favor of independence from Spain on October 1. The Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain on October 27, almost a month after the referendum.
Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reinstated direct rule over Catalonia following its declaration of independence. An order by the Spanish government also sacked Puigdemont, dissolved the parliament, and called snap local elections for December 21.