Spanish court withdraws ex-Catalan leader’s arrest warrant

| Updated: December 07, 2017 09:58:31

Spanish court withdraws ex-Catalan leader’s arrest warrant

A Spanish judge has withdrawn a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four other ministers.

They fled to Belgium a month ago after declaring unilateral independence in a referendum ruled illegal by Spain.

Despite the move, the judge said they still faced possible charges for sedition and rebellion.

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

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

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

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

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

Puigdemont has previously said he would return if this was guaranteed, according to a BBC report.

On Monday six Catalan ex-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.

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