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Spain issues arrest warrants for Catalan leaders

A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont and four other Catalan leaders as they were in Belgium on Friday.

The move, comes after the judge took nine other members of the regional government into custody after the Spanish central government removed them from their posts.

Mr Puigdemont responded to the warrants being issued by declaring he would turn himself in to Belgian authorities, "but not to Spanish justice".

Belgium prosecutors have 24 hours to decide whether they paperwork for the warrants is in order and have a further maximum of 60 days to arrest and send the subjects to Madrid, if they choose to comply.

The Spanish government had removed Mr Puigdemont and his colleagues from office after the Catalonia government pushed ahead with a declaration of independence following a referendum last month.

Madrid also arrested nine other ex-members of the regional government, with former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras one of those still detained.

Writing in the New York Times earlier this week, Mr Junqueras said,

Many times and in many ways we have tried to speak out for our rights, but the Spanish government has never listened; we have always found the same wall of incomprehension and rejection. The Spanish government wants only servile obedience

In a battle for self-determination and the recognition of rights, one does not win with the first punch, especially against a state so willing to have its machinery strike millions of citizens just because they want to vote. No matter what Madrid says, Carles Puigdemont and Carme Forcadell are still the president and the speaker of our Parliament, respectively, and will continue to be until the day our citizens decide otherwise in a free election.

Madrid’s will to quash self-government, to reject dialogue, to limit rights and freedoms, to persecute the representatives of the citizens, to impose the state’s brute force, forces us to persevere and to become stronger in order to prevail.

See the full text of his piece here.

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