Spain issue arrest warrant for sacked Catalan leader Charles Puigdemont

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The Prosecutor requested today the Spanish National Court (AN) to issue an European arrest warrant against the deposed President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont and four members of his government, who are in Belgium.

Spain's state prosecutor had asked the judge to issue such a warrant earlier in the day.

Mr Bekaert said that he would "undoubtedly appeal" any court order or extradition warrant in an attempt to avoid being sent to Madrid.

Mr Puigdemont made no mention of his legal predicament in a message to his political followers in north-eastern Spain posted on Twitter on Saturday.

"I told my lawyers to tell the Belgian judiciary I am completely ready to cooperate", Puigdemont said.

The Spanish government said on Friday it would have no option but to open talks within the law with those who held a majority.

Puigdemont and the four former ministers are being sought for five crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, for their roles in pushing regional lawmakers to declare independence from Spain.

The 54-year-old has been holed up in Belgium since Monday and ignored a summons to appear before the judge in Madrid, saying he wants guarantees he will receive a fair trial.

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New regional elections are set for December 21.

Investigative magistrate Carmen Lamela jailed eight of nine Catalan ex-officials who appeared for questioning, including former regional vice president Oriol Junqueras, without bail. "For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and the Republic", he wrote, endorsing calls for pro-secession political parties to unite in a coalition for the forthcoming poll.

Told of Puigdemont's unity call, the ERC's deputy leader, Marta Rovira, responded simply: "We must win (the elections) and that is what we will do".

The Catalan parliament was dissolved by the Spanish government last week after they officially declared independence from Spain.

Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Omnium Cultural have spearheaded the civil society efforts to achieve secession for the northeastern region.

Vila stepped down from the Catalan cabinet before the independence declaration.

In the Basque city of Bilbao in northern Spain, several thousand people marched Saturday despite the rain to protest the intervention of the Spanish government in Catalonia's self-rule.