Spanish judge withdraws European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Puigdemont

Spanish judge withdraws European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Puigdemont

The five still face Spanish arrest warrants and would be arrested on their return to Spain where they would face charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds and, in Puigdemont's case, disobedience.

The warrant was originally issued after Puigdemont and Antonio Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati travelled to Belgium in the wake of the Catalan unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.

The crimes are punishable in Spain with decades in prison.

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.

He also said that the probed politicians have shown their "intention to return to Spain" in order to run for regional elections in Catalonia.

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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".

Catalonia will hold fresh regional elections on December 21, called by the central government after it took direct control of the region.

However, the vote is shaping up as a plebiscite between those for and against independence, with polls predicting a close race.

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

Campaigning officially begins at midnight tonight.

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Pilar Gonzalez, 76, said while walking her dog in Barcelona that the jailed Catalan political leaders were "political prisoners". Puigdemont would be arrested if he went to Spain, he said.

Junqueras, who tops the list for the left-republican ERC party, last week pledged to abandon efforts to seek unilateral independence, alongside other political detainees, in the hope of securing release.

However, the judge said it remained to be seen if his promise to abide by Spanish law was "truthful and real".

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

Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena on Tuesday confirmed a decision to withdraw the European arrest warrant which was issued for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four former members of his government in November.

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