Catalan leaders face charges in Spain; Puigdemont turns himself in

By Ruby Van Dyk || Staff Writer

About 2 weeks ago, Catalonia, formerly a region of Spain, declared independence from the country of Spain. The declaration came after a highly disputed referendum in October. In reaction to the declaration Spain quickly began to dissolve Catalonia’s established Government, as well as declared direct rule over the region. Spain also called for new elections in December.  As this all took place, the ousted President Carles Puigdemont fled to Brussels to escape. Many of his foreign ministers remained Spain and were put in jail there.

On November 4th, a Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont. According to The Associated press, “Puigdemont and the four others are being sought for five different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in a Spanish investigation into their roles in pushing for succession for Catalonia.”

At the time that the warrant was issued, Puigdemont was actually on a Belgian television show giving an interview. He stated that he would comply with Belgian justice and police, but believes that Spanish justice is extremely politicized. On November 5th, Puigdemont turned himself into Belgian police. Following this, Puigdemont was granted conditional release by a Belgian judge, according to his lawyer Paul Bekaert. Puigdemont is due in court in the Brussels in the next 10 days.

Puigdemont’s release comes with a condition: he must stay in Belgium until his appearance in court in Brussels later this month. The extradition process is most likely to take months rather than weeks, and there is a chance that Puigdemont’s presence in Belgium could possibly cause the country’s government some serious difficulties.

At the same time, protests continue in Barcelona as pro-independence citizens continue to demonstrate their support for Catalonia. They carried signs that depicted the former ministers who were jailed as political prisoners. The outrage continues towards the Spanish government, which continues to claim that it is preserving democracy by punishing leaders who broke the law when they held the illegal referendum, and then continued on to declare independence.

It will be crucial to pay attention to the outcome of these trials, along with the treatment of other Catalonian officials as Spain attempts to regain control over the state.

First-year Ruby Van Dyk is a staff writer. Her email is rvandyk@fandm.edu.

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