Catalonia’s Carles Puigdemont return to Spain could take 3 months: Authorities

November 4, 2017 10:00 pm

Sacked Catalan President makes a statement in this still image from a video in Brussels, Belgium, November 2, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Belgian authorities say it could take three months for deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his associates to be returned to under a European arrest warrant.
Puigdemont is accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over his role in ’s independence drive, but the separatist leader, who is now in Brussels, denies the allegations.
According to the Belgian public prosecutor’s office, a Spanish judge issued the European arrest warrant for Puigdemont as well as four of his former councilors on Friday.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Saturday that once Puigdemont and his associates were found and brought before an investigating judge, then a decision on what to do next would be made within 24 hours.
“He (the judge) can decide not to issue an arrest warrant or he can issue an arrest warrant but possibly release the persons concerned under certain conditions,” the statement said.
The parties involved can then lodge an appeal against the judge’s decision.
“The EU Framework Decision provides that the final decision must be taken within 60 days, with an extension to 90 days under exceptional circumstances,” the Belgian Justice Ministry said.
“They still allow in some situations to refuse the execution of an European arrest warrant,” the justice ministry said.
“If the decision is to execute the (warrant), the person is in principle surrendered to the authorities of the issuing state within 10 days following the decision.” 
On Thursday, Puigdemont and 13 members of his sacked administration were ordered to testify in Madrid. Eight out of nine ministers who showed up were remanded in custody and one was released on bond.
Puigdemont did not appear before the court and issued a video message from Belgium, calling the court’s action “an attack on democracy.”
Puigdemont calls for united front for independence
On Saturday, the ousted Catalan leader called for a united political front in the December 21 election to continue the drive for independence from Spain and to protest the detention of former members of the regional government.
Puigdemont said he was considering standing in the election from Brussels.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, October 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the snap election in Catalonia after taking control of the region a week ago.
Puigdemont said in a tweet, “It is time for all democrats to join together. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the republic.”
The political standoff over Catalonia, the gravest to hit Spain since the return of democracy to the country in the late 1970s, was triggered by a referendum of independence in the region on October 1. Nearly half of Catalonia’s eligible voters turned up in the referendum, which Spain had called illegal. Catalonia’s government then built on the overwhelming yes vote and declared independence on October 27.
That prompted Madrid to sack Puigdemont and his deputies and take over control of the wealthy and economically-prosperous region.
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