Spanish Prosecutor Requests European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont
Albanian Daily News
Published November 2, 2017
Former members of the Catalan government arrive at Spain’s national court in Madrid on Thursday morning. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty ImagesSpain's state prosecutor has asked a judge to issue a European arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four of his former regional ministers after they failed to return from Belgium to testify in court.
Puigdemont, who is in Brussels, had been summoned to attend Spain's national court to give evidence on Thursday and Friday.
In a written request to Judge Carmen Lamela of the national court, prosecutors said that Puigdemont and the others were aware that they had been ordered to testify, but had chosen not to attend.
"Repeated attempts to deliver the summons at home and repeated phone calls have been ignored," they said. "For his part, Carles Puigdemont has publicly stated his intention not to appear and has requested ... to make a statement via videoconference, without giving any information about his current whereabouts."
Consequently, they added, they were requesting Puigdemont be found and arrested.
Puigdemont and 13 other members of his ousted administration could be charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over the Catalan parliament's decision to declare regional independence last week.
Earlier on Thursday, Puigdemont's lawyer said that although his client would cooperate with the courts, he intended to remain in Brussels.
"The climate is not good, it is better to take some distance," Paul Bekaert told Reuters. "If they ask, he will cooperate with Spanish and Belgian justice.
Prosecutors have also called on the national court to jail all nine former members of the Catalan government who appeared for questioning. The judge has yet to decide on the request. A parallel supreme court session for six Catalan lawmakers was postponed for a week.
Some members of the separatist government began arriving to testify at the national court early on Thursday morning. The hearing, which deals with major criminal cases, began at 9am and will continue on Friday.
Catalonia's former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, was the first to arrive at the court. He went in accompanied by lawyers, passing by dozens of journalists, and declined to answer questions.
Assumpció Lailla, a former politician with Catalonia's Democrats party, said she had travelled to Madrid joining about 100 other politicians and elected officials to show support to those investigated in the rebellion investigation.
"This is an unjust situation in which they are being investigated for facilitating democracy," she told the Associated Press. "I don't understand how Europe can look away from democracy."
Supporters outside court cheered and shouted: "Freedom, Freedom" and "we are not afraid".
Across the street, half a dozen protesters with Spanish flags were stopped by police. Addressing the Catalan politicians, they shouted "cowards" and "to jail, to jail."
In Barcelona thousands of people have rallied outside the Catalan presidential palace in a show of support for the ousted officials.
An independence referendum on 1 October - which heavy-handed Spanish police tried and failed to stop - was followed by a declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament last Friday.
Later that day, the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy's government dismissed the regional government and moved to impose direct rule on the wealthy north-eastern region.
On Monday, Spain's chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges of rebellion - punishable by up to 30 years in prison - sedition and misuse of public funds against the 14.