The Latest: Basque Country marches in support of Catalonia
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the crisis over regional lawmakers in Catalonia voting to declare independence from Spain (all times local):
Several thousand people marched in Spain’s Basque Country to protest the Spanish government’s takeover of Catalonia’s affairs to impede the region’s secession and to punish the politicians promoting it.
The march held Saturday under steady rain in the city of Bilbao also was organized as a show of support for Catalan separatists who claim the region’s people have the right to self-determination.
The Basque region in northern Spain has its own separatist movement, one with a decades-long history of armed conflict and violence.
An armed separatist group, ETA, has been blamed for the deaths of more than 800 Spanish law enforcement officers, soldiers and civilians people. The group disarmed earlier this year.
More pro-independence rallies are planned for the coming weeks in Catalonia.
Prosecutors in Belgium’s capital say they are examining a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and hope to launch extradition proceedings as soon as possible.
Brussels prosecutors said in a statement issued Saturday that their federal Belgian counterparts gave them the warrants for Puigdemont and four of his associates due to links the five politicians from Catalonia have to Brussels.
The statement did not explain what those links are. Puigdemont and former members of his Cabinet fled to Belgium after the Spanish government removed them from office a week ago.
Puigdemont spoke at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday and appeared on Belgian state television on Friday.
Sources close to the officials would not disclose their whereabouts on Saturday, although Puigdemont tweeted in Dutch that he was ready to cooperate with Belgian authorities.
Brussels prosecutors said in the statement that they and federal prosecutors are jointly examining the arrest warrants from Spain “to start the judicial proceedings as soon as possible and in conformity with the law.”
The statement says no further details would be provided before 2 p.m. local time on Sunday.
Catalonia’s ousted leader says he’s ready to cooperate with Belgian authorities after Spain issued a European warrant for his arrest, though he isn’t giving any clues about his whereabouts.
A tweet sent in Dutch from the account of former Catalan President Carlos Puigdemont on Saturday read: “We are prepared to fully cooperate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain.”
Puigdemont didn’t elaborate or say where he is. He is believed to be in Belgium, where he and some aides fled after the Spanish government removed them from office a week ago.
Belgian prosecutors have confirmed they received European warrants for Puigdemont and four other former members of Catalonia’s separatist government. It is up to a judge to decide whether or not to arrest them.
Spain is seeking the officials for alleged crimes that include rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for their roles in pushing regional lawmakers to declare Catalonia’s independence.
A leader of one of Catalonia’s largest pro-independence parties says party members only will participate in upcoming regional elections if Spanish authorities release jailed Catalan separatists.
Republican Left Secretary General Marta Rovira said Saturday that for the party to field candidates in the December election, “it is necessary that all the political prisoners are released from prison.”
A Spanish judge has sent eight former members of the ousted Catalan regional government and two leaders of secessionist grassroots groups to jail while they are investigated for possible sedition and rebellion charges.
Prosecutors are looking to charge all members of the dismissed government for their parts in pushing through a declaration of independence by Catalonia’s Parliament.
Republican Left president Oriol Junqueras, the former vice president in the Catalonia government, is among the removed officials who have been in a Madrid prison since Thursday.
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has urged all political parties in Catalonia in favor of secession from Spain to join in a coalition for the region’s Dec. 21 election.
Puigdemont wrote on Twitter in Catalan: “It’s the moment for all democrats to unite. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and the Republic.”
His center-right separatist Democratic Party of Catalonia announced Friday that it will seek to form the coalition. Puigdemont has said he would consider running in the election.
Spain has issued an international arrest warrant to detain Puigdemont and four other Catalan politicians who are now in hiding in Belgium. They are being sought for their roles in pressing for independence
Eight other members of his deposed Catalan government are in jail in Spain on suspicion of rebellion and other alleged crimes.
Belgian federal prosecutors are confirming that they have received European arrest warrants from Spain for five people including ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
The prosecutor’s office said Saturday that “once the persons involved are found and brought before an investigating judge, (the judge) will have 24 hours to make a decision.” It said the judge can decide whether or not to arrest the five politicians and whether they should be kept in custody for promoting independence for Catalonia.
The five were named as Puigdemont, Maria Serret Aleu, Antoni Comin Oliveres, Lluis Puig Gordi and Clara Ponsati Obiols. They are in hiding.
Prosecutors said Friday they could bring the five in over the weekend or even on Monday, saying that investigators “are in no hurry.”
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is a wanted man after Spain issued a European warrant for his arrest — and the main question is how long he could delay the extradition process in Belgium and stay out of the hands of Spanish justice.
Puigdemont and several aides fled to Belgium after they were fired by Spanish authorities after lawmakers in Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain despite repeated warnings that it would violate the nation’s constitution. It is thought that all five are still hiding in Belgium — their exact whereabouts are unclear.
The deepening crisis over Catalonia is Spain’s worst constitutional challenge in nearly four decades. Puigdemont and the four other former ministers are being sought for five different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in a Spanish investigation into their roles in pushing for secession for Catalonia.
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said his government will have no influence over the future of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont or four other Catalan officials because the European arrest warrant issued by Spain “is a completely legal procedure.”
He said, unlike a normal international extradition, “the executive power does not play any role in the EAW procedure. Everything goes through direct contact between the justice authorities.”
Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer did not answer calls requesting comment on the arrest warrant but has said his client will fight extradition to Spain without seeking political asylum. Belgian federal prosecutors say they could question Puigdemont in the coming days.
Puigdemont, who is in hiding, has said he would be willing to cooperate with the Belgian judiciary but that he had lost confidence in Spanish justice, which he claimed has become politicized.
The Catalans are being sought for different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for pushing for secession for Catalonia.