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Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont calls for political unity

Puigdemont has urged all pro-independence political parties in Catalonia to unite for December 21 elections. He is currently under an arrest warrant from Spain over his role in pushing for secession.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Saturday called on all parties in Catalonia that are in favor of secession from Spain to form a coalition for December 21 elections so that their drive for independence can be continued.

"It is time for all democrats to join together. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the republic," he said in a tweet.

Watch video 02:23

Political crisis hits tourism in Catalonia

Political parties in the northeastern region that want to form an alliance have until Tuesday to register their potential coalition.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the snap December election after taking control of Catalonia a week ago in an attempt to stave off his country's biggest political crisis since the return of democracy in the 1970s.

A wanted man

Puigdemont is currently in hiding in Belgium and is being sought under an arrest warrant by Spain along with four other Catalan lawmakers to answer charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust relating to their secessionist campaign.

Belgian federal prosecutors confirmed on Saturday that they had received the European arrest warrants.

Mariano Rajoy in Madrid (Reuters/S. Vera)

Rajoy is facing an immense political challenge in trying to hold his country together

They said that "once the persons involved are found and brought before an investigating judge, [the judge] will have 24 hours to make a decision" whether or not to arrest the five.

Apart from Puigdemont, those sought have been named as Maria Serret Aleu, Antoni Comin Oliveres, Lluis Puig Gordi and Clara Ponsati Obiols.

Belgium's justice minister, Koen Geens, has said the government in Brussels will have no influence over Puigdemont's future, with justice authorities in Belgium and Spain having sole responsibility under the European arrest warrant procedure.

Puigdemont has said he will cooperate with Belgian authorities, but that he has lost confidence in "politicized" Spanish justice. He also says he might stand in the December election from Brussels.

Read more: Spanish arrest warrant for Catalan leader Puigdemont: What's next?

Protests in Barcelona

DW reporter Charlotte Chelsom-Pill said a large crowd of pro-independence protesters gathered in Barcelona again on Friday to show their opposition to the warrant, as well as to Thursday's jailing of eight Catalan leaders.

Watch video 01:27

Tens of thousands protest against Catalan detentions

She said there was "a lot of anger," with protesters saying that Puigdemont was essentially a political prisoner being held for exactly what he promised to do when he ran for election.

She said they also expressed fears about Spain's justice system and that any trials would be politically motivated.

What has happened so far:

- Spain's Catalonia region held an independence referendum on October 1 that was declared illegal by the central  government in Madrid

- Catalonia's leaders unilaterally declared independence from Spain on October 27

- Madrid exercised constitutional powers allowing it to take over the running of Catalonia

- Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed the Catalan cabinet and dissolved the regional parliament

- Spanish prosecutors filed rebellion charges against Catalan leaders

- Carles Puigdemont traveled to Brussels with several ex-cabinet ministers, saying he was seeking "freedom and safety"

- Spain issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and the four other Catalan leaders in hiding in Belgium

tj/jlw (AP, Reuters)

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