Spanish court withdraws arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader

Indo Asian News Service

Madrid, Dec 5 (IANS) A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Tuesday withdrew an international arrest warrant for ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and several of his Cabinet members.

Puigdemont and four other politicians have been in Belgium since the Spanish government triggered Article 155 of the Constitution, reeling back Catalonia's independence and dissolving the regional Parliament and government in response to a unilateral declaration of independence.

Despite the move, the judge said Puigdemont, Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati still faced possible charges for sedition and rebellion, the BBC reported.

Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llareno announced the warrant's withdrawal, citing the willingness the Catalan leaders had shown to return ahead of fresh regional elections being held on December 21.

He said its removal would allow Spain full control over the investigation.

A Belgian judge was previously expected to rule whether to extradite the ministers on December 14. The five were fighting the move, saying they could not be guaranteed a fair trial on their return.

On Monday, six Catalan former ministers being held in a prison near Madrid were released from prison on bail. But two others, including former Catalan Vice President Orial Junqueras, were remanded in custody.

Campaigning has now officially started ahead of the new vote organised by Spanish authorities in an attempt to try and resolve the Catalonia crisis.

Puigdemont labelled the election as a choice between "nation or submission" while speaking on a video link from Belgium to a rally in Barcelona on Monday night.

He said voters must chose "between Catalan institutions or dark characters in Madrid".