Carles Puigdemont turns himself in to Belgian police
Carles Puigdemont turns himself in to Belgian police, the ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four associates have turned themselves in to Belgian police, the Brussels prosecutor’s office has said.
Puigdemont is in custody awaiting a decision by the Belgian federal prosecutor on whether to execute Spain’s European arrest warrant and send him back home to face charges of sedition and embezzlement.
A spokesman for the prosecutor said in a press conference in Brussels that the five men would be questioned on Sunday afternoon.
The investigating judge has 24 hours to make a decision on whether to execute the European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish government and start the process of deportation or dismiss it, most likely on the grounds that the Belgian state does not recognise similar charges.
The judge could also execute the warrant but free Puigdemont who has the right to appeal, a process that could take 30 days to complete. The judge must make a decision by 9.17am on Monday morning, 24 hours after the former Catalan leader handed himself in.
Puigdemont has been in Brussels since Monday having declared Spain’s courts as politicised.
On Saturday, from self-imposed exile, the deposed regional president launched an online petition yesterday to establish a broad secessionist coalition, the day after Spain issued an international warrant for his arrest.
Spain has called fresh elections in which Puigdemont has announced his intention to stand.
Earlier, two polls suggested pro-Catalonia independence parties would together take the most seats in December’s regional election although they may fall just short of a majority needed to revive the secession campaign.
Parties supporting Catalonia remaining part of Spain would divide seats but garner around 54% of the vote, the polls suggested.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, called an election for 21 December after firing the previous government and imposing direct rule over the autonomous region following a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalan lawmakers on 27 October.
According to a survey of 1,233 people published in La Vanguardia newspaper, pro-independence parties ERC, PDECat and CUP would take between 66 and 69 seats in the 135-seat parliament.
A second poll for the conservative newspaper La Razón showed pro-independence parties would capture the most votes though still fall just shy of a parliamentary majority with 65 seats.
Other seats would be generally divided between parties supporting the region continuing to be part of Spain, but the parties are not allied.
Catalonia’s push for independence has tipped Spain into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago, as surging pro-secession sentiment in the region has in turn kindled nationalism across the country.