Arrest warrant dropped for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Puigdemont will continue in Belgium despite the withdrawal of the arrest warrant

Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday said it had withdrawn an global arrest warrant for Catalonia's pro-independence former leader, in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

In a statement, the court said Judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case, made a decision to withdraw the warrant as the five have said they want to come back to Spain to participate in regional elections.

"Puigdemont will not leave Belgium following the withdrawal of the European arrest warrant", Bekaert said when contacted by L'Echo daily.

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

Mr Puigdemont has, however, travelled to Belgium - leading Spanish authorities to issue a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to seek his deportation to face trial in Spain.

The statement added the global warrant can not apply because the crimes are alleged to have been committed as part of a wider group.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after the failure of his attempt to secure independence for the autonomous Spanish region following a referendum on October 1. The group could still be arrested if they return to Madrid.

"Now there is no reason for Puigdemont not to return to Spain, not to put himself in front of the people he wanted to liberate, because he declared independence and went running off", Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a spokesman for the ruling Popular Party in the European Parliament, said.

Judge Llarena said Mr Junqueras would likely repeat his alleged offences of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds if he was released.

The crimes are punishable in Spain with decades in prison.

The sacked vice president Oriol Junqueras and three other separatist leaders will remain in prison during a probe into their role in the bid for independence. The Belgian judge overseeing the extradition case was expected to deliver a verdict on December 14.

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