Spain re-issues international arrest warrants for 3 Catalan separatists

Madrid (AFP) –


Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday issued international arrest warrants for three former Catalan regional government officials who fled abroad after the failed independence bid of 2017, court documents showed.

A similar arrest warrant was issued on October 14 for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, just hours after the Supreme Court handed long jail terms to nine other separatist leaders on charges of sedition.

Two of the warrants will be sent to the judicial authorities in Belgium, with Toni Comin wanted on charges sedition and misuse of public funds, and Lluis Puig facing charges of insubordination and misuse of public funds.

The third warrant for the arrest of Clara Ponsati on grounds of sedition has been sent to Scotland, with her lawyers saying she would appear in an Edinburgh court on Thursday.

The warrant for Puigdemont, who led the abortive independence bid, calls for his detention on grounds of sedition and misuse of public funds.

He fled after a short-lived declaration of independence on October 27, 2017, just a few weeks after his regional government staged a secession referendum that was banned by Madrid.

Five other pro-independence leaders escaped with him and are living variously in Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland.

An initial warrant for the arrest of all six of them was issued after they fled, with four wanted on grounds of rebellion. But the warrants were dropped several weeks later over concerns about whether Belgium and other countries would recognise such charges.

Of those that stayed in Spain, 12 were put on trial on a string of charges, including rebellion, with the Supreme Court convicting nine of them on the lesser charge of sedition and jailing them for between nine and 13 years.

Last month's court ruling sparked a huge wave of protest in this wealthy northeastern region, with days of violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

The crisis erupted as Spain gears up for yet another general election -- its fourth in as many years -- that will take place on Sunday.

Last week, lawyers for Puigdemont, who is also based in Belgium, vowed to fight Spain's efforts to extradite him, although Belgian prosecutors appear inclined to honour the request. The legal battle is likely to last several months.