Spanish judge issues European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Puigdemont

Supporters of Catalonian independence

Puigdemont is now in Belgium, where he went after Madrid sacked his government.

Bank of Spain governor, Luis Maria Linde, had already warned in late September that political tensions could affect growth and financial stability.

"It's the moment for all democrats to unite. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and the Republic", he wrote, endorsing calls for pro-secession political parties to unite in a coalition for the forthcoming poll.

Puigdemont and the four former ministers are being sought for five crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, for their roles in pushing regional lawmakers to declare independence from Spain.

He has said he wanted to stand as the leading candidate for Puigdemont's PdeCat (Catalan Democratic party) in the regional election.

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

"The fury with which the Spanish government has attacked a lovely European nation is outrageous and is threatening us all", Mr Puigdemont said, adding that Catalonia's independence is "no longer an internal affair" of Spain.

He said that, unlike a normal global extradition, "the executive power does not play any role in the EAW procedure".

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'I will go to the justice authorities, but the real justice authorities, ' he told Belgian media.

Puigdemont's Belgian lawyer did not answer calls requesting comment on the arrest warrant but has said his client would fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

Prosecutors in Belgium's capital, Brussels, said they were examining the arrest warrants for Puigdemont and four of his associates Saturday and hope to launch extradition proceedings as soon as possible.

"We will give it to an investigative judge maybe tomorrow or the day after", Eric Van der Sypt told Reuters.

The deposed leader added that it was "very clear that the Spanish justice authorities had become politicised".

A Spanish judge on Friday issued an European Union arrest warrant against the deposed president of Catalonia - a region of 7.5 million that remains deeply divided over the issue of independence.

The Spanish government said on Friday it would have no option but to open talks within the law with those who held a majority.

The lawyers argued yesterday that Jordi Sanchez, who leads Assemblea Nacional Catalana, and Jordi Cuixart, who heads Omnium Cultural, should be released because the political situation in Catalonia has changed since the probe began last month.

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