Spain withdraws worldwide arrest warrant for ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont

Protesters hold the lights of their mobile phones as they wave Estelada flags during a demonstration called by pro-independence associations asking for the release of jailed Catalan activists and leaders in Barcelona Spain. REUTERS  Albert Gea

The court explained that Mr Puigdemont has expressed willingness to return to Spain, alongside the other four members of his cabinet who fled to Belgium after the independence referendum.

The latest opinion poll says the election outcome will be tight but that pro-independence parties will fall narrowly short of an absolute majority. "They seem to have indicated their intention to return to Spain with the aim of carrying out elective functions for elections that have been called recently", Llarena said in a reference to the regional election to be held on 21 December.

The spokesman asked not to be named in line with court rules.

After taking the decision, the Spanish court also noted that the withdrawal of the arrest warrant also prevented more than one European jurisdiction overseeing the case.

Along with Puigdemont, warrants were also withdrawn for Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati. "The investigation has shown that they meant to return to Spain", the judge said.

The Catlonia leader and five of his ex-ministers all traveled to Belgium following a unilateral declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament on October 27, considered illegal by Spanish courts.


There were no immediate reactions by Puigdemont and aides in Brussels to the judge's announcement, but defense lawyer Paul Bekaert was taken by surprise when he heard the news from a reporter.

Judge Llarena said Mr Junqueras would likely repeat his alleged offences of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds if he was released.

The charges against the Catalans are punishable by years in prison.

The sacked vice president Oriol Junqueras and three other separatist leaders will remain in prison during a probe into their role in the bid for independence.

A court in Belgium is expected to decide whether to extradite the former leaders later this month.

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