Deposed Catalan leader urges separatist 'unity' for election

Deposed Catalan leader urges separatist 'unity' for election

A Spanish judge was deliberating yesterday on whether to issue an global arrest warrant for Catalonia's ousted leader a day after she jailed nine former members of the region's separatist government.

If an arrest warrant is issued, Puigdemont will fight extradition without seeking political asylum, according to his Belgian lawyer.

"We will study it, and put it in the hands of an investigating judge", prosecutors' spokesman Eric Van Der Sijpt told The Associated Press.

Global arrest warrants have also been issued for four of his associates.

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"We consider ourselves a legitimate government", Puigdemont told Belgian state television RTBF on Friday.

If the separatist leader and his former collaborators refused to be extradited to Spain, as media reports predict, an extradition procedure would be initiated.

Mr Puigdemont said: "I have not fled, but it is impossible to prepare well".

Mr Puigdemont and the four other former ministers are being sought for five crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, for their roles in pushing regional politicians to declare independence from Spain despite repeated warnings that it would violate Spain's Constitution. The regional government was removed from power and an early election was called for Dec 21.

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The 54-year-old has been holed up in Belgium since Monday and ignored a summons to appear before the judge in Madrid, saying he wants guarantees he will receive a fair trial.

The request took place hours after the Prosecutor's Ministry also demanded the imprisonment without bail for the other eight Catalan ex-counselors (ministers) who appeared on Thursday in Madrid before the judge of the AN Carmen Lamela. "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.

"Elections here can only happen here if we say they do", Rovira said.

Vila stepped down from the Catalan cabinet before the independence declaration.

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The 7.5 million people of Catalonia, which until this past week had considerable autonomy, are fiercely proud of their language and culture but are also deeply divided about the push for independence.

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