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Spain issues international arrest warrant for ex-Catalan leader

Spain issues international arrest warrant for ex-Catalan leader

Madrid: A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, one day after eight fellow members of the dissolved regional government were jailed in Madrid, the media reported.

Carmen Lamela, a judge in Spain's National Court, on Friday asked Belgium's prosecutor's office to arrest Puidgemont and four ministers in the dissolved Catalan government who ignored a court order to appear before a judge on Thursday, reports CNN.

Puigdemont, who considers himself the rightful leader of Catalonia, is currently in Belgium.

The former leader has said that he was not fleeing the Spanish court system but instead was seeking European support for his region's independence bid.

The charges include sedition, rebellion, misuse of funds, abuse of authority and contempt. The other four people named in warrants are Toni Comin, Clara Ponsati, Lluis Puig and Meritxell Serret.

The arrest warrant issued on Friday also said Puidgemont will not be allowed to testify via videoconference from Belgium.

Belgian Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said he has received the arrest warrants for Puigdemont and the others.

"(I will) study them and will hand them over to the investigating judge either Saturday, Sunday or even Monday," Van der Sypt told CNN on Friday night.

Puigdemont and the 13 former ministers were ordered to appear before the Spanish High Court. Of the nine former officials who showed up, eight were detained and one was freed on bond.

Puigdemont did not appear and issued a video message in which he called the court's action "an attack on democracy".

Spain was plunged into its worst political crisis in decade after Puigdemont's administration held an independence referendum on October 1, CNN reported.

The Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence and Spain responded by suspending the region's autonomy, sacking the government and imposing direct rule.

Puigdemont and some of his former ministers turned up in Brussels earlier this week after Spain's state prosecutor announced he would seek charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against them.

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