Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Spanish court withdraws arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader

Spanish court withdraws arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader

Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday withdrew global arrest warrants for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four ex-cabinet members.

Judge Pablo Llarena, who is in charge of the case, also withdrew warrants for the arrest of four other Catalan politicians who fled Spain with Puigdemont: Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati.

The highly polarized parliamentary election set for December 21 is shaping up as a plebiscite between Catalans who support secession and those who favor remaining in Spain.

Over a dozen Catalan leaders are facing possible charges of sedition, misuse of public funds and rebellion in Spain, over their roles in October's illegal independence referendum and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

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According to the statement released by the Spanish court, Llarena argued that the European warrant would complicate the overall probe into Catalan leaders.

Madrid hopes the elections will restore normality to the wealthy northeastern region, which declared independence in vain following the referendum.

Mr Puigdemont, who is standing for re-election to the regional parliament, would nearly certainly face arrest on his return, as the charges of rebellion and sedition against him have not been lifted. The charges carry maximum penalties of decades in prison.

On Tuesday, campaigning began for the December 21 Catalan regional election that Madrid called in an attempt to resolve the crisis by installing an administration in favor of Spanish unity.

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Catalan separatist parties that tried to break away from Spain would lose their absolute majority in regional parliament in elections later this month, an influential opinion poll showed Monday.

The poll, in which 3,000 people were interviewed, said just over 90% of those questioned were completely certain to vote in the elections while five percent will "probably" go.

Bekaert said legal proceedings in Belgium were now over. Puigdement is running as the candidate for the Junts Per Catalunya party, despite his exile.

Because the Belgian penal code doesn't have an equivalent for a charge of "rebellion", the Spanish court withdrew the global warrants to allow for legal action against Puigdemont, as rebellion is one of the most serious crimes attributed to him.

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Puigdemont gave a televised address from Belgium at a campaign rally on Monday, telling the central government in Madrid that his party would win the election.

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