Spain to issue arrest warrant for Catalan leader
A judge in Madrid was set Friday to issue an EU arrest warrant for Catalonia’s deposed leader over his region’s tumultuous independence drive, in a move likely to take tensions to a new level in Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
The warrant for Carles Puigdemont, who is holed up in Belgium, was expected a day after a Spanish judge threw a large chunk of Puigdemont’s axed regional government behind bars over their role in Catalonia’s push for secession.
Puigdemont, 54, dismissed last week as Catalan president by Spain’s government, failed to show on Thursday to the court over alleged sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds, accusations he calls politically motivated.
Judge Carmen Lamela, who on Thursday had Puigdemont’s deputy Oriol Junqueras and seven other deposed regional ministers detained pending a potential trial, will issue the warrant “during the day Friday,” a judicial source said.
Puigdemont’s lawyer, who in the past has helped Basque separatists militants challenge Spanish extradition requests, told Flemish TV channel VRT on Thursday his client would appeal the move.
The EU on Friday refused to intervene over the European arrest warrant Spain is set to issue, saying it was a matter for the courts.
Catalan efforts to make the crisis an international issue have so far failed, and the EU has been steadfast in its support for Madrid throughout, insisting it is an internal matter for Spain.
European Commission spokesperson Annika Breidthardt reiterated that support at a news conference on Friday, deflecting a barrage of questions about Catalonia with the same response.
The Catalan independence declaration was roundly spurned across Europe, with Germany, France and Britain rejecting it and EU institutions sticking to their support for the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.