Spain Withdraws International Arrest Warrant For Catalan Separatist Leader

Protesters hold the lights of their mobile phones as they wave Estelada flags during a demonstration called by pro-independence associations asking for the release of jailed Catalan activists and leaders in Barcelona Spain. REUTERS  Albert Gea

Catalonia will hold fresh regional elections on December 21, called by the central government after it took direct control of the region. Extradition through the European arrest warrant in most cases requires "double criminality", meaning the crimes must exist in the statutes of both countries."He said the crime was "perpetrated in concert by all those under investigation" and therefore all the defendants must be treated as a single, unified group".

On Monday, a Belgian court said it would rule on December 14 whether to extradite Puigdemont whilst a court in Spain made a decision to keep the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and three other senior Catalan politicians in jail on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

The five Catalan officials fled to Belgium and are refusing to return to Spain to face possible rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges over the push for independence.

Madrid called the new elections after the independence declaration, while dismissing Catalonia's government and suspending the region's autonomy. He was staying in prison "because they know he is the best candidate", she claimed.

Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Belgium after an illegal independence referendum.

Teneo Intelligence analyst Antonio Barroso said the decision to keep the four separatist leaders in jail "will certainly help the separatists to focus their messaging on the alleged repression by Spanish authorities, rather than on any prospective policy issues".

More news: Women Accuse Democratic Assemblyman Of Sexual Harassment And Assault

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.

The central government's Sociological Research Centre (CIS) predicted that the three pro-independence parties would get 44.4% of the votes and 66 to 67 parliamentary seats out of 135, just under the absolute majority of 68.

The poll showed parties that back Spanish unity would capture 68-69 seats.

Llarena cited the ex-politicians' intention to return for elections to be held on December 21.

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.

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