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Catalan ex-leader freed by judge but told not to leave Belgium

Puigdemont and four former ministers had turned themselves into authorities to face a Spanish warrant for their arrest.

Puigdemont said a fair and impartial process for himself and his colleagues is unlikely in Spain.
Puigdemont said a fair and impartial process for himself and his colleagues is unlikely in Spain.
Image: Manu Fernandez/PA

CATALONIA’S FORMER SEPARATIST leader Carles Puigdemont has denounced Spain as an undemocratic country that “unjustly” jailed his colleagues, after he was freed on bail in Belgium.

Puigdemont and four former ministers were released with conditions last night after turning themselves in to Belgian authorities to face a Spanish warrant for their arrest on charges of rebellion and sedition.

“Released without bail. Our thoughts are with colleagues unjustly imprisoned by a state that is far from democratic norms,” Puigdemont said on Twitter hours after the five were released.

A Spanish judge in Madrid had on Thursday put Puigdemont’s deputy and seven other deposed regional ministers behind bars because of a risk they would flee.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders insisted it was a legal matter and not one for politicians to deal with, despite recent criticism of Spain from some Flemish separatist members of his own government.

“We must let the Belgian and Spanish courts do their work,” Reynders told his country’s media.

Arrest warrants

Puigdemont and his allies escaped to Belgium last Monday after Spain dismissed the Catalan executive and imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region following the declaration of independence by the parliament there last month.

Spain issued European arrest warrants on Friday after Puigdemont and his allies ignored a summons to appear before a judge on allegations linked to the move to declare Catalonia an independent republic.

Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party said yesterday that he had turned himself in to show his “willingness not to flee from the judicial process, but to defend himself in a fair and impartial process, which is possible in Belgium, and highly doubtful in Spain”.

The next court hearing will be in the following 15 days. Belgium has up to 60 days to decide whether to send the Catalans back to Spain.

Puigdemont has said he and his colleagues –Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig and Clara Ponsati – would cooperate with the Belgian authorities.

- © AFP 2017.

Read: Judge has 24 hours to decide fate of former Catalan leader and ministers>

Read: Catalan leader could stay in Belgium for three months despite Spain demanding arrest>

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