Tuesday 19th December, 2017
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spanish-judge-withdraws-warrant-against-carles-puigdemont

Spanish judge withdraws warrant against Carles Puigdemont

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 6th December, 2017

MADRID, Spain - A Spanish judge on Tuesday withdrew the European arrest warrants for ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four other ex-ministers, who fled to Belgium last month.

The ministers fled to Belgium after declaring unilateral independence in a referendum ruled that was declared illegal by Spain.

The judge said that despite the move, these ousted ministers still faced possible charges of sedition and rebellion.

Rebellion, which carries a jail term of up to 30 years, is considered one of the most serious crimes in Spain.

On Tuesday morning, 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.

Judge Llareno has said that the European-wide warrant would complicate the Spanish legal probe, and its removal allows Spain to gain full control over the investigation.

After the warrant was issued last month, the ministers turned themselves into Belgian authorities, but they were freed after being questioned.

Previously, a Belgian judge was expected to rule whether to extradite the ministers on December 14. 

The five ministers had been fighting the move and had argued that they may not receive a fair trial on their return - even though Puigdemont has previously said he would return if a fair trial was guaranteed.

A day before the Spanish judge announced his decision, six Catalan ex-ministers being held in a prison near Madrid were released from prison on bail. 

Two others, including former Catalan Vice President Orial Junqueras, however, were remanded in custody.

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

The ousted Catalan president has said that the election is a choice between "nation or submission" and that voters must choose "between Catalan institutions or dark characters in Madrid.”

As per a new opinion poll, conducted by the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) in late November, showed that the pro-independence parties will fall narrowly short of an absolute majority in the December election.

Puidgemont and Junqueras' pro-separatist parties are campaigning separately in the new vote.

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