Spanish judge withdraws arrest warrant for Puigdemont

The European arrests for former president Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers have been withdrawn by Spanish judge

Spanish judge Pablo Llarena has withdrawn the European arrests for the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after being sacked by the Madrid government, and four of his ministers.

Llarena said that Puigdemont and the Catalan cabinet members in Belgium showed a willingness to return to Spain while withdrawing the warrants prevented more than one European jurisdiction overseeing the case.

According to court sources, however, the Spanish arrest warrants were still in force against the five individuals and they would be detained upon arrival in the country.

Official campaigning for a 21 December regional election, which was called after Puigdemont’s government was dissolved, started on Tuesday.

Over a dozen Catalan leaders are facing possible charges of sedition, misuse of public funds and rebellion in Spain, over their roles in October’s illegal independence referendum and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

Llarena argued that the European warrant would complicate the overall probe into Catalan leaders. He said that Belgium may reject some of the reasons behind the warrant, which could possibly reduce the charges and create inequalities with those back in Spain.

Six former Catalan cabinet members who were facing charges on Monday were granted bail, but the deposed vice president, Oriol Junqueras, looked set on contesting this month’s regional election from a prison cell after a judge at Spain’s supreme court denied him bail. He said it remained to be seen whether his pledge to abide by Spanish law was “truthful and real.”

The five Catalans, on Monday, were given a 14 December date by a Belgian court, for a decision on whether to grant a European arrest warrant and extradite them.

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