Spain has issued an international arrest warrant for Catalonia’s ousted President Carles Puigdemont a day after eight members of the regions separatist government were jailed in Madrid over their declaration of independence, media reports said.
Carmen Lamela, a judge in Spain's National Court, on Friday asked Belgium's prosecutor's office to arrest Puidgemont and four ministers -- Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comín, Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí, reports CNN.
Puigdemont and 13 former ministers were ordered to appear before the Spanish High Court on Thursday. Of the nine former officials who showed up, eight were detained and one was freed on bond. They all face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for pursuing Catalan independence, the BBC reported.
Puigdemont, who considers himself the rightful leader of Catalonia, is currently in Belgium. The arrest warrant also said that the former leader will not be allowed to testify via video-conference from Belgium. Late Friday, Puigdemont told the Belgian public TV channel RTBF that he would put his faith in the Belgian courts, the Guardian reported.
He said: "I will not flee from justice. I will go towards justice, but real justice. I've told my lawyers to tell the Belgian justice system that I'm completely available to cooperate.
"It's obvious it's politicised. The guarantees are not there for a fair, independent trial."
It was Puigdemont's first interview since arriving in Brussels on Monday and he claimed there was "enormous influence of politics over the judiciary in Spain".
"It's not normal that we risk 30 years in prison, it's extremely barbaric, we can not talk about democracy." He also added that he was ready to stand in December's regional elections, adding: "It's possible to run a campaign from anywhere. We consider ourselves a legitimate government.
Meanwhile, Belgian Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said he had received the arrest warrants for Puigdemont and the others. "(I will) study them and will hand them over to the investigating judge either Saturday, Sunday or even Monday," Van der Sypt told CNN on Friday night. The prosecutors have 24 hours to decide whether the warrants were justified. Belgium has a maximum of 60 days to return the suspects to Spain after the arrest. But if the suspects do not raise legal objections, a transfer could happen much sooner.
Spain was plunged into its worst political crisis of a decade after Puigdemont's administration held an independence referendum on October 1. The Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence and Spain responded by suspending the region's autonomy, sacking the government and imposing direct rule. Puigdemont and his former ministers turned up in Brussels after Spain's state prosecutor announced he would seek charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against them.