Carles Puigdemont was the president of the autonomous region of Catalonia until the proclamation of independence and continues to regard himself as the president of the newly proclaimed “Republic of Catalonia”.
The ousted and his colleagues travelled to Belgium to raise their case for statehood at the EU institutions and he insists he is not trying to evade “real justice”.
During an interview with Belgian TV, aired on November 3, Carles Puigdemont that he would co-operate with Belgian judicial authorities.
He also said that he was ready to run in snap regional elections in Catalonia next month.
The other four warrants are for: ex-agriculture minister Meritxell Serret, ex-health minister Antoni Comín, ex-culture minister Lluís Puig and ex-education minister Clara Ponsatí.
The warrants were sent to Belgian prosecutors, who have 24 hours to decide whether the paperwork is correct.
If they do, they will forward them on to a judge who will decide whether Carles Puigdemont and the four others should be arrested.
Belgium has a maximum of 60 days to return the suspects to Spain after arrest. However, if the suspects do not raise legal objections, a transfer could happen much sooner.
A country can reject an EU arrest warrant if it fears that extradition would violate the suspect’s human rights.
Discrimination based on politics, religion or race is grounds for refusal. So are fears that the suspect would not get a fair trial.
There is an agreed EU list of 32 offences – in Article Two of the EAW law – for which there is no requirement for the offence to be a crime in both countries. In other words, any of those offences can be a justification for extradition, provided the penalty is at least three years in jail.
However, neither “sedition” nor “rebellion” – two of the Spanish accusations against the Catalan leaders – are on that list.
Eight dismissed members of Catalonia’s regional government are facing jail over their role in October’s disputed independence referendum, Madrid prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, nine Catalan officials testified at Spain’s high court over accusations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
Ousted Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont and four others disregarded a summons.
Carles Puigdemont, who is in Belgium, said the trial was “political”.
Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since the referendum was held on October 1 in defiance of a constitutional court ruling that had declared it illegal.
Last week, Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on Catalonia, dissolving the regional parliament and calling snap local elections for December 21.
This came after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence of the north-eastern region.
The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favor of independence.
Prosecutors asked the high court judge to jail eight of the nine members who turned up for questioning.
Those included dismissed deputy leader Oriol Junqueras, Interior Minister Joaquin Forn, foreign affairs chief Raül Romeva and spokesman Jordi Turull.
The ninth, Catalonia’s former business minister Santi Vila, should be granted a €50,000 ($58,000) bail, prosecutors said. He resigned before the Catalan parliament voted for independence on October 27.
The Catalan leaders are yet to be formally charged. They were accused of rebellion – which carries a maximum 30-year jail term – as well as sedition and misuse of funds.
A judge will decide whether the officials should go to jail, pending an investigation that could potentially lead to a trial.
The judge can also grant them conditional bail and order them to surrender their passports.
Five dismissed Catalan officials stayed in Brussels, including Carles Puigdemont, who had previously said he would not return to Spain if he and his colleagues did not receive unspecified guarantees of a fair trial.
Reports suggest some of them requested to appear before the judges via video conference.
Carles Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer told Reuters that he would co-operate with the authorities in Spain and Belgium, but did not appear before the judges because “the climate is not good”.
The dismissed leader’s handling of the crisis has drawn criticism among some other Catalan politicians, with left-wing parliamentary deputy Joan Josep Nuet criticizing him for creating “yet more bewilderment”.
Meanwhile, five other senior members of the Catalan parliament, as well as speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing the same charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court.
Their hearings have been postponed until November 9.
If those Catalan politicians appearing in court are denied bail it will cause further anger among those who want Catalonia to break away.
The court summons also gave them three days to pay a deposit of €6.2 million ($7.2 million) to cover potential liabilities.
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puidgemont and 13 other members of his dismissed government have been summoned to appear in Spain’s high court later this week.
The court also gave them three days to pay a deposit of €6.2 million to cover potential liabilities.
The summons comes after Spain’s chief prosecutor said he would press charges including rebellion.
Carles Puigdemont is in Belgium with several former ministers. He earlier said he was not there to seek asylum.
Catalonia’s dismissed president triggered a crisis in Spain by holding an independence referendum on October 1 in the semi-autonomous region despite Madrid’s opposition and the Constitutional Court declaring the vote illegal.
Carles Puigdemont turned up in Brussels on October 30 as Spanish Attorney-General José Manuel Maza called for Catalan leaders to face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
The Audiencia National has now summoned the dismissed Catalan officials – who are yet to be formally charged – to testify on November 2 and 3. If they do not appear, prosecutors could order their arrest.
Meanwhile, the speaker of Catalan’s dissolved parliament Carme Forcadell and other former lawmakers have been summoned to the Supreme Court because they still have parliamentary immunity.
Carles Puigdemont earlier said he would return to Spain if guaranteed a fair hearing.
Several of Carles Puigdemont’s former colleagues who remain inside the country may decide to accept the summons and appear in court.
Prosecutors’ arguments against the group were “serious, rational and logical”, Judge Carmen Lamela said in a ruling, according to the AFP.
The charge of rebellion carries a maximum 30-year jail term.
Speaking at a press conference earlier on October 31, Carles Puigdemont said he was not trying to escape justice by travelling to Belgium but wanted to be able to speak freely.
Carles Puigdemont’s comments came as Spain’s constitutional court suspended the declaration of independence made by the Catalan parliament on October 27.
The former leader also said he would accept the result of snap elections in Catalonia on December 21, which were called by Spain’s central government after it invoked Article 155 of the constitution, temporarily suspending the region’s autonomy.
He told reporters: “I want a clear commitment from the state. Will the state respect the results that could give separatist forces a majority?”
Spain’s central government has previously said Carles Puigdemont is welcome to take part in the fresh polls.
Spanish law dictates that elections must be held within six months of Article 155 being triggered, but the prime minister said it was imperative that the vote be held much sooner.
Catalonia’s regional government held a referendum to ask residents of the region if they wanted to break away from Spain.
Of the 43% of Catalans said to have taken part, 90% voted in favor of independence. However, many anti-independence supporters boycotted the ballot, arguing it was not valid.
Carles Puigdemont and other regional leaders then signed a declaration of independence, but immediately suspended it in order to allow for talks.
He then defied two deadlines set by the national government to clarify Catalonia’s position, and the government announced it would pursue Article 155.
Article 155 of the Spanish constitution allows the national government to impose direct rule over Spain’s semi-autonomous regions in the event of a crisis. It has never before been invoked in democratic Spain.
The article says that if a region’s government “acts in a way that seriously threatens the general interest of Spain”, Madrid can “take necessary measures to oblige it forcibly to comply”.
Catalonia currently enjoys significant autonomy from Spain, including control over its own policing, education and healthcare.
Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) holds a majority in the Senate, meaning the proposals are likely to pass.
Catalonia accounts for about a fifth of Spain’s economic output, and supporters of independence say the region contributes too much to the national economy.
Opponents argue that Catalonia is stronger as a part of Spain, and that breaking away would lead to economic disaster for the country as a whole.
Nearly 1,200 companies based in Catalonia have re-registered in other parts of Spain since the referendum, hoping to minimize instability, according to the AFP.
This week, Spain cut its national growth forecast for 2018 from 2.6% to 2.3%, blaming uncertainty over the future of Catalan independence.
Spain’s government is to challenge in the Constitutional Court a motion passed in the Catalan parliament backing the region’s independence.
PM Mariano Rajoy said he would not allow the secessionists to achieve their aim.
“They want an end to democracy,” he said.
Mariano Rajoy said Catalan vote on November 9 was a “clear violation” of the constitution.
The motion called on the regional parliament to aim for independence within 18 months.
It gives the assembly 30 days to start legislation on a Catalan constitution, treasury and social security system.
Catalan nationalist parties secured a majority of seats in September elections but fell short of winning half the vote. They had said before the vote that they considered it a de facto referendum on independence from Spain.
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Spain’s state prosecutor had called on the Constitutional Court on November 11 to suspend the Catalan resolution immediately, the prime minister said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
Opinion polls suggest a majority of Catalans favor a referendum on independence, but are evenly divided over whether to secede.
The Constitutional Court, which was due to hear the government’s appeal on November 11, is expected to rule against the Catalan motion.
However, the pro-secession parties had fully expected the motion to be declared illegal and as part of the motion argued that the court lacked legitimacy.
Two big separatist parties make up the “Together for Yes” (“Junts pel Si”) coalition but they needed the help of the far-left CUP (Popular Unity) party to secure an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament.
Catalonia’s acting president Artur Mas, who has spearheaded the drive for secession, has been trying to win re-election but has failed to secure the approval of the far-left party.
The CUP has called for another Together for Yes candidate, Raul Romeva, to take over the leadership role.
Several parties oppose secession in Catalonia, including the Catalan Socialists and Citizens (Ciudadanos), a center-right party which was born in the wealthy north-eastern region but has attracted increasing popularity across Spain.
Its leader, Albert Rivera, said earlier this week: “To those Catalans who want independence: the solution is not to break up the country, it is to reform it.”
Fourteen people have been arrested in a Spanish and Moroccan joint operation targeting suspected recruiters for the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) group.
One arrest was made close to Madrid, the others in various Moroccan cities.
Those arrested are suspected of involvement in a network to send fighters to areas of Syria and Iraq under ISIS control.
On August 21, a Moroccan who had lived in Spain was arrested following a foiled attack on a high-speed French train.
Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25, originally from Tetouan in northern Morocco, arrived in Spain in 2007 and lived there for seven years, in Madrid and Algeciras, before moving to France.
He is suspected of having had contact with radical Islamists and had been put on a list marked as “potentially dangerous” by Spanish authorities. They flagged this up to French counterparts in February 2014.
Spanish counter-terrorism sources quoted on August 24 by the Spanish Cadena Ser radio network said that some 800 people with a radical Islamist profile were in Europe and ready to strike, having returned from Syria and Iraq.
The latest Spanish arrest took place in San Martin de la Vega, close to Madrid, and the others were in the Moroccan cities of Fez, Casablanca, Nador, al-Hoceima and Driouech.
The Spanish interior ministry said the operation was ongoing, without giving specific details.
In June, Spain raised the terrorism threat level from three to four out of a possible five, increasing the number of armed police at sensitive sites across the country.
Level four means the intelligence services believe there is a high risk of a terror attack happening.
Both Spain and Morocco have arrested dozens of suspected radical Islamists in recent years.
Tens of thousands of Spaniards have marched in central Madrid for a rally organized by radical left-wing party Podemos.
The “March for Change” is one of Podemos’ first outdoor mass rallies, as it looks to build on the recent victory of its close allies Syriza in Greece.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told the crowd a “wind of change” was starting to blow through Europe.
The party has surged ahead in opinion polls, and has vowed to write off part of Spain’s debt if it comes to power.
Several of Madrid’s main avenues became a sea of people and purple, the party’s color, after its supporters travelled from all over Spain.
Marching from Madrid city hall to the central Puerta del Sol square, protesters shouted “Si, Podemos!”, meaning “Yes, we can”.
Broadcaster TVE reported that hundreds of thousands were at the demonstration, but there was no official tally.
“The wind of change is starting to blow in Europe,” Pablo Iglesias said, addressing supporters in Greek and Spanish at the start of the rally.
“We dream but we take our dream seriously. More has been done in Greece in six days than many governments did in years.”
Protesters are parading in the same streets that over the past six years have seen many other gatherings against financial crisis cutbacks imposed by successive governments.
Speaking in Barcelona, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy said Podemos had no chance of winning elections.
“I don’t accept the gloomy Spain which some want to portray because they think that by doing so they will replace those who are governing and have had to face the most difficult crisis in decades. They will not succeed,” he said.
Many Spaniards are enraged over reports of political corruption and public spending cuts implemented by Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party and before that by the Socialists.
The two big traditional parties have described the party – less than a year old and whose names translates as “we can” – as populist.
Since Podemos stormed onto the political scene in last May’s European elections, it has moved from strength to strength with its uncompromising message against austerity and corruption.
Both left-wing and right-wing media have criticized Podemos, accusing it of having ties with Venezuela’s left-wing leaders and alleging financial misconduct by some of its senior members.
The party’s leaders have in response promised to publish their tax returns, with Pablo Iglesias remaining defiant.
“In the face of their hatred, we smile,” is one of his regular pronouncements, according to the AFP news agency. After the Syriza triumph in the Greek elections he said that “hope had been born”.
Spain has now officially come out of recession but nearly one in four workers remains unemployed.
Catalonia’s government has called off plans to push ahead with a contested independence referendum, Spanish media says.
A spokesman for Catalan President Artur Mas said he would be holding a news conference at 08:00 GMT on October 14.
Spain’s government said the November 9 vote was unconstitutional but Catalan’s leaders had vowed to hold it.
Support for independence has increased among the 7.5 million Catalans following Spain’s economic crisis.
On September 19, the regional parliament voted by 106 to 28 in favor of granting Catalan’s president the power to hold a referendum.
Catalonia’s government has called off plans to push ahead with the independence referendum
Spain’s central government protested against the move and the Constitutional Court agreed to hear their case against the referendum – a process that could take years.
The pro-independence Catalan government had previously said it was examining legal arguments to persuade the court to lift its suspension of the vote while the case is heard.
However, Joan Herrera, of the Initiative for Catalonia party, told reporters that the regional government had “determined that the consultation can’t take place” after meeting with pro-referendum parties on Monday.
Spanish media said that President Artur Mas was now looking for other mechanisms to consult the public.
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans have protested on the streets in recent weeks, demanding their own vote.
Polls suggest most Catalans favor holding the vote, but are roughly evenly split on independence.
With about 16% of the Spanish population and a distinct language and culture, Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest and most independent-minded regions.
Catalonia’s planned independence referendum has been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Spain’s Constitutional Court said it first needed to consider arguments whether the November 9 vote breached the country’s constitution.
It acted on a request from the Spanish central government in Madrid.
Catalonia leader Artur Mas signed a decree on September 27 calling for the referendum.
However, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy told reporters that the vote was not “compatible with the Spanish constitution”.
“Nobody and nothing will be allowed to break up Spain.”
Mariano Rajoy was speaking in a televised statement to the nation after holding an emergency cabinet meeting.
Catalonia’s planned independence referendum has been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans joined a protest in Barcelona recently, calling for their right to vote.
Unhappy at Spain’s refusal to give Catalans more powers, protesters have been energized by Scotland’s recent independence referendum and many also waved the Scottish flag.
Catalonia’s 7.5 million inhabitants make up approximately 16 % of the population of Spain. Yet it is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialized regions, as well as one of its most independent-minded.
Spain’s deepening economic crisis, though, has seen a surge in support for separation.
A recent poll for Spain’s El Pais newspaper showed that 45% of Catalans were in favor of suspending the referendum if the Constitutional Court declared it illegal.
Only 23% would like the referendum to go ahead regardless, the survey suggested.
Artur Mas has only recently become a supporter of full independence. Since 2007, he has spearheaded a push to revitalize Catalan nationalism known as the Refoundation of Catalanism.
The Catalan parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of giving its regional president the power to call an independence “consultation”.
Spain’s government opposes the Catalan “consultation” vote and is taking the dispute to the Constitutional Court.
The move comes a day after Scotland voted against independence from the United Kingdom.
Catalan President Artur Mas said Scotland’s referendum had “shown the way” for Catalonian independence.
Artur Mas is preparing Catalonia for a similar vote on November 9, with large-scale support for independence from Spain.
Catalonian lawmakers voted by a margin of 106 to 28 in favor of authorizing the consultation.
Spain’s Constitutional Court is expected to consider the Catalan case on September 23 and could suspend the region’s vote on independence.
Artur Mas earlier said Scotland’s rejection of independence was “not a setback” and that having the chance to vote was “the key point”.
Catalonia has a large-scale support for independence from Spain (photo AFP)
“This is a powerful and strong message that the UK is sending to the entire world – that if there is such a conflict elsewhere in the world you have the right way to try to resolve these differences,” he said.
Scotland “has shown the way to others – the Catalan process continues”, he added.
“My main commitment is to… organize the referendum and let the Catalan people vote,” Artur Mas said.
“If they think in Madrid that by using legal frameworks they can stop the will of the Catalan people, they are wrong.”
Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy warmly welcomed the Scottish “No” to independence.
“With their decision, the Scottish have avoided the grave economic, social, institutional and political consequences that would have resulted from its separation from the United Kingdom and Europe,” he said.
“They chose between integration and segregation, between isolation and openness, between stability and uncertainty, between security and a real risk, and they have chosen the most favorable option for everyone, for them, for the rest of the British citizens and for Europe.”
Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialized regions, and also one of the most independent-minded.
Until recently, few Catalans had wanted full independence, but Spain’s painful economic crisis has seen a surge in support for separation, correspondents say. There is resentment over the proportion of Catalan taxes used to support poorer regions.
Artur Mas can count on support from 79% of the deputies in Catalonia’s parliament, the Spanish news agency EFE reports.
The pro-independence movement in Catalonia believes that once Artur Mas signs the new law, the region can go ahead with the independence vote.
Felipe VI has been proclaimed king of Spain after the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos, in a ceremony in parliament.
Earlier, King Felipe VI received the royal sash from his father, Juan Carlos, at the Zarzuela Palace near Madrid.
He acceded to the throne at the stroke of midnight after Juan Carlos formally abdicated on Wednesday.
Correspondents say the ceremonies have been kept low key, at a time when many in Spain are suffering economic hardship.
The ceremony takes the form of a proclamation rather than a coronation. It is the first royal transition in Spain since democracy was restored in the 1970s.
Felipe VI has been proclaimed king of Spain after the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos
King Felipe VI, 46, swore an oath promising to uphold the constitution.
Congress President Jesus Posada then proclaimed him king, declaring: “Long live Spain! Long live the king!”
In a speech to parliament, King Felipe thanked his parents and said he had “great hope” for the future of Spain.
“You will find in me a loyal head of state who is ready listen and understand, warn and advise as well as to defend the public interest at all times,” he said.
“The monarch wants to be close to citizens… ensuring it can preserve its prestige and dignity.”
“Now more than ever, citizens of Spain are rightly demanding fundamental ethical principles should govern our public life. The king should not only be a reference but who serves all citizens of Spain.”
No foreign leaders or royal families have been invited to the event.
King Felipe and his wife Letizia will later be driven through Madrid’s streets before appearing on the front balcony of the Royal Palace.
Correspondents say the new king faces a series of tough challenges if he is to restore the reputation of the monarchy.
Although King Juan Carlos won plaudits for his role in restoring democracy, his image suffered when he went on a luxurious African elephant-hunting safari in the midst of a recession.
His reputation suffered further damage because of tax fraud allegations made against his daughter, Infanta Cristina, who is reported not to have been invited to the succession party.
At the same time many Spaniards are demanding a referendum on whether to have a monarchy at all.
A demonstration is scheduled to take place in central Madrid on Thursday, the same day as the enthronement, despite a ban imposed by authorities.
King Juan Carlos of Spain signed the bill of his abdication in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe.
King Juan Carlos, 76, signed the bill at a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Madrid, which was attended by only 160 guests.
At midnight local time, Crown Prince Felipe, 46, will become king although the event will not be marked in public until Thursday morning.
The succession was endorsed by both of Spain’s main political parties.
Before the signing, King Juan Carlos sat with Queen Sofia to his right and Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia to his left as the content of the law was read out.
King Juan Carlos of Spain signed the bill of his abdication in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe
After Juan Carlos had signed the document that will end his rule, PM Mariano Rajoy also signed the law. Moments later, the assembled guests applauded, the prince’s two daughters joined the royal group and the national anthem was played.
Prince Felipe will head to the lower house of the Spanish parliament on Thursday for the first royal transition the country has seen since democracy was restored after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.
The ceremony at 10:30 local time will take the form of a proclamation rather than a coronation, in part because of the economic hardship that many Spaniards have experienced in recent years.
Juan Carlos, who has been king for 39 years, formally brought his reign to an end in the Hall of Columns at the 18th Century royal palace, the same room in which Gen. Francisco Franco’s body lay in state in November 1975.
Father and son both wore suits which bore the insignia of the order of the golden fleece, Spanish media reported.
King Juan Carlos announced his decision to abdicate on June 2, saying that a “new generation must be at the forefront… younger people with new energies”.
Although he was for many years a popular monarch, King Juan Carlos reputation has taken a knock from a corruption investigation into the business dealings his daughter’s husband and an lavish elephant hunting trip he took to Botswana in April 2012 in the midst of Spain’s financial crisis,
As Juan Carlos was Spain’s first ruling monarch for 44 years, a new law of abdication had to be passed by both houses of parliament under the country’s 1978 constitution.
Former Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez, has died at 81.
Adolfo Suarez guided Spain through the turbulent years following the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco.
The former prime minister was taken to hospital on Monday suffering from a respiratory infection.
King Juan Carlos turned to Adolfo Suarez upon General Francisco Franco’s death in 1975 to try to unite Spain’s disparate political factions.
Adolfo Suarez served as prime minister until 1981 and became one of Spain’s most respected politicians
Adolfo Suarez served as prime minister until 1981 and became one of the country’s most respected politicians.
He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade, and died on Sunday afternoon at Madrid’s Centro Clinic hospital.
King Juan Carlos has paid tribute, calling Adolfo Suarez an exceptional colleague and a true friend.
In a televised message, King Juan Carlos said Adolfo Suarez had been “guided at every turn by his loyalty to the crown and all that it represents, the defense of democracy, the rule of law, unity and the diversity of Spain”.
Adolfo Suarez’s son, Adolfo Suarez Illana, praised both his father’s and the king’s role in the post-Franco period.
Repsol has agreed a $5 billion settlement with Argentina over the seizure of its assets there.
Argentina nationalized Repsol’s stake in the country’s biggest oil firm, YPF, in 2012, stripping the Spanish oil company of nearly half its annual output.
Repsol had been demanding $10.5 billion in compensation.
Although the amount agreed is half that figure, Repsol said it was a positive move as it would end legal uncertainty and give the firm a financial boost.
“I think to finally reach a friendly agreement on this contentious issue that has taken two years is extremely positive,” said Antonio Brufau, Repsol’s chairman.
“As far as we are concerned, from a financial point of view, we have started a new chapter where we are stronger.”
Repsol has agreed a $5 billion settlement with Argentina over the seizure of its assets there
Argentina will pay Repsol using US dollar-denominated government bonds, which the Spanish firm can sell at any time.
The move is also expected to help Argentina attract foreign investment in its shale oil and gas reserves, which are among the world’s largest.
YPF produces about a third of Argentina’s oil and a quarter of its gas.
Argentina has been keen to develop the Vaca Muerta shale formation – a key YPF asset – but has so far struggled to attract investors, not least due to the uncertainty over the legal proceedings with Repsol.
As part of the settlement, Repsol has agreed to drop its lawsuits against Argentina.
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