A Spanish judge issued an EU arrest warrant Friday for Catalonia’s deposed separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, a day after he failed to appear for questioning over his role in the region’s tumultuous independence drive.
The announcement added to anger and dismay for a second straight night of demonstrations in the wealthy north-eastern region, with protesters chanting and waving Catalan flags of red and yellow stripes with a white star.
Spanish prosecutors want to charge Puigdemont, holed up in Belgium, with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. On Thursday the 54-year-old ignored a summons to appear before the same judge in Madrid.
An EU 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. They, like Puigdemont, were dismissed by Spain’s central government a week ago.
On Thursday the judge had Puigdemont’s deputy and seven other deposed regional ministers jailed pending a possible trial because of a risk that they might similarly abscond.
Speaking in an interview on Belgian television channel RTBF on Friday, recorded before the widely expected warrant was issued, Puigdemont said he was not hiding from “real justice” but from a “clearly politicised” Spanish legal system.
“I have told my lawyers to inform the Belgian justice authorities that I am completely at their disposal,” he said.
Belgian prosecutors said they would study the warrant and then give it to a judge.