Warrant for Carles Puigdemont, Catalan Separatist, Is Dropped

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Extradition through the European arrest warrant in most cases requires "double criminality", meaning the crimes must exist in the statutes of both countries."He said the crime was "perpetrated in concert by all those under investigation" and therefore all the defendants must be treated as a single, unified group".

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.

It was not immediately clear if Puigdemont would remain in Belgium or return to Spain to face charges there. The charges carry maximum penalties of decades in prison.

Political parties in Catalonia started campaigning Monday for the early regional election called by the Spanish government in hopes of quashing the region's independence movement and featuring candidates who are either in jail or living overseas to avoid detention.

On Tuesday, campaigning began for the December 21 Catalan regional election that Madrid called in an attempt to resolve the crisis by installing an administration in favor of Spanish unity.

The decision comes on the first day of the campaign for the Catalan regional elections to be held on December 21.

However, the vote is shaping up as a plebiscite between those for and against independence, with polls predicting a close race. It had ERC, Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and the far-left anti-establishment CUP party winning 66 or 67 of the parliament's 135 seats. The poll of 3,000 people was conducted by telephone November 23-Nov. 27.

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Pilar Gonzalez, 76, said while walking her dog in Barcelona that the jailed Catalan political leaders were "political prisoners".

The poll, in which 3,000 people were interviewed, said just over 90% of those questioned were completely certain to vote in the elections while five percent will "probably" go.

However, the judge said it remained to be seen if his promise to abide by Spanish law was "truthful and real".

Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido was unmoved by the arguments of Junqueras' supporters.

European arrest warrants for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his former cabinet have been withdrawn by a Spanish judge.

Bekaert said legal proceedings in Belgium were now over.

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