Spain Withdraws International Arrest Warrant against Ex-Catalan Leader

Spanish Supreme Court withdraws Carles Puigdemont international arrest warrant

After receiving a request to free the 10 Catalan leaders, Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena decided there was a risk that Junqueras and three others would repeat their alleged offences if released.

His lawyer said at the weekend that Puigdemont would remain in Belgium until after the Catalan elections. Extradition through the European arrest warrant in most cases requires "double criminality", meaning the crimes must exist in the statutes of both countries."He said the crime was "perpetrated in concert by all those under investigation" and therefore all the defendants must be treated as a single, unified group".

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after declaring his region independent from Spain in a referendum that saw voters in Catalonia vote overwhelmingly to secede from Madrid's control - although the ballot was not sanctioned by Madrid and less than half of the electorate turned out to vote.

The Associated Press reports that the five are facing charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement related to their roles in staging an independence referendum in October that Spain declared illegal.

There is also a question that if the former leaders were returned to Spain, it could violate their human rights, under European Union law, based on political discrimination.

Political parties in Catalonia started campaigning Monday for the early regional election called by the Spanish government in hopes of quashing the region's independence movement and featuring candidates who are either in jail or living overseas to avoid detention.

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Independence never materialised, however, as Madrid sacked the Catalan government after the declaration on Oct 27, imposed direct rule on the once semi-autonomous region and called elections for Dec 21 in a bid to "restore normality".

The poll showed parties that back Spanish unity would capture 68-69 seats.

The poll, in which 3,000 people were interviewed, said just over 90% of those questioned were completely certain to vote in the elections while five percent will "probably" go.

"Those who commit criminal acts must place themselves at the mercy of legal rulings", Zoido said.

Puigdemont's party, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), could not be immediately reached for comment.

That's one week before the regional election in which Puigdemont is leading his pro-independence party's ticket as its presidential candidate.

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