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Spanish judge withdraws arrest warrant for Puigdemont

06 December 2017

The decision comes on the first day of the campaign for the Catalan regional elections to be held on December 21. The withdrawal of the arrest warrant would leave him without an worldwide legal platform to pursue his independence campaign.

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.

ERC was part of the former Catalan ruling coalition with Puigdemont's conservative party, but now leads the polls ahead of the new election.

Judge Pablo Llarena, who is in charge of the case, also withdrew warrants for the arrest of four other Catalan politicians who fled Spain with Puigdemont: Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsati.

Mr Puigdemont, who is standing for re-election to the regional parliament, would nearly certainly face arrest on his return, as the charges of rebellion and sedition against him have not been lifted. He was staying in prison "because they know he is the best candidate", she claimed.

Along with Puigdemont and his ministers in Brussels, all eight are under investigation for rebellion, which can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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Madrid hopes the elections will restore normality to the wealthy northeastern region, which declared independence in vain following the referendum.

"The hope is that this will keep separatist voters mobilised, as low turnout motivated by exhaustion with the pro-independence process is the main fear of separatist parties", he added.

Catalan separatist parties that tried to break away from Spain would lose their absolute majority in regional parliament in elections later this month, an influential opinion poll showed Monday.

Puigdemont launched his campaign last month from Brussels with a flurry of high-profile media appearances and a demand that he be returned as the "legitimate" president of Catalonia.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ordered regional elections taking place on December 21, "to restore democracy".

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.

Spanish judge withdraws arrest warrant for Puigdemont