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

Chase Winter
November 4, 2017

Spain has issued a European arrest warrant for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium. Here are the next steps in a legal process that could last months.

Spanien Barcelona TV Ansprache von Carles Puigdemont
Image: Reuters/Generalitat de Catalunya/R. M. Garcia

A Spanish court has issued a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four other regional cabinet members.

The five fled to Brussels after the Spanish government on Saturday took over powers from Catalonia's regional government and called an election for December 21.

A Madrid court issued the European arrest warrant after Puigdemont and his aides failed to attend a court hearing on Friday.

They stand accused of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust over the Catalan government's independence bid, which Madrid deemed illegal. The court also issued an Interpol arrest warrant in case Puigdemont tries to flee Belgium. 

What's next?

The Belgian prosecutor has 24 hours to respond to the European arrest warrant, which is valid for all 28-members of the EU. 

Puigdemont has said he will cooperate with Belgium authorities, but would not return to Spain to face the charges due to "enormous pressure and political influence" on the judiciary back home.

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

Belgium can initiate the extradition request if the charges are a crime in both EU countries.

Crimes against the federal state such as rebellion and fraud are also punishable in Belgium and, therefore, the extradition is likely to be approved, according to Belgian legal scholars.

However, Puigdemont will be able to appeal the court decision if it decides to approve the extradition. Puigdemont's lawer said he would appeal any negative decision.

Puigdemont could apply for political asylum during the extradition process.

cw/bw (AP, dpa)