Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont arrested in Italy
Carles Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times: Carles Puigdemont, ‍an exiled Catalan separatist leader, has been detained in Italy on a Spanish arrest warrant.

Spain has accused Mr Puigdemont of sedition for a breakaway independence referendum in 2017 that the courts ruled illegal.

He was president of Catalonia at the time but fled to Belgium after the vote. Mr Puigdemont lives there and sits as a member of the European Parliament.

Police were waiting for him at Sardinia’s Alghero airport and he is due in court in the coming hours.

Mr Puigdemont’s lawyer said he had travelled to the Mediterranean island for a Catalan folklore festival.

A judge in Sardinia will have to decide whether he should be extradited or released.

The 2017 referendum was the deepest political crisis in Spain for decades, with the Catalan regional parliament declaring independence, and Spanish authority then imposing direct rule over the region.

After Mr Puigdemont and two ministerial colleagues fled the country, Spanish authorities jailed nine other Catalan leaders for sedition for their role in the breakaway vote. They were pardoned by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in June.

Madrid failed in its court bid to extradite the Catalan separatist leader and two ministerial colleagues and they were later elected to the European Parliament in 2019.

As MEP Mr Puigdemont initially had immunity from prosecution but the Parliament voted to strip him of that last March.

The question facing the Italian court is whether the extradition warrant is still valid.

Catalonia’s new president Pere Aragones, who is also a separatist, condemned what he called the “persecution” of Mr Puigdemont.

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