Spain mulls int'l arrest warrant for Puigdemont

A man holds up an “esteladas,” or Catalonia independence flag in front of a Spanish national police officer outside the National Court in Madrid Thursday. A Spanish judge has ordered nine ex-members of the government in Catalonia jailed while they

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called on Saturday for a united political front in the December 21 election to continue the drive for independence from Spain and to protest the imprisonment of former members of the regional government.

The former Catalan leader, who is now in Belgium, has left Spain after authorities in Madrid dismissed him and his administration and set a date for a snap election in Catalonia over the declaration of the autonomous region's independence. It is thought that five of them are still hiding in Belgium, though their exact whereabouts are unclear.

". I am ready to be a candidate.it's possible to run a campaign from anywhere".

"It's the moment for all democrats to unite".

Spain is seeking the officials for alleged crimes that include rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for their roles in pushing regional lawmakers to declare Catalonia's independence.

The European arrest warrant is likely to kick start a legal process that could last up to three months.

Earlier, Mr Puigdemont said he did not flee from Spain and insisted he "will not run from justice".

He said that, unlike a normal worldwide extradition, "the executive power does not play any role in the EAW procedure".

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Puigdemont's Belgian lawyer did not answer calls requesting comment on the arrest warrant but has said his client would fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

"We will study it, we will give it to an investigative judge maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow", Van der Sypt told Reuters.

The deposed leader added that it was "very clear that the Spanish justice authorities had become politicised".

A European Union arrest warrant was also issued for four other Catalan ministers who failed to show up and are also thought to be in Belgium, a court statement said.

While Mr Puigdemont and others flew to Belgium, eight members of his government stayed in Spain. He also said that the snap election will not "be neutral, independent, normal", if the Catalan leadership is in jail.

Vila stepped down from the Catalan cabinet before the independence declaration.

In all, Spanish prosecutors are investigating 20 regional politicians for rebellion and other crimes that could be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

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