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Spain issues warrant for Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont after colleagues sentenced

A Spanish Supreme Court judge has issued an international arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont following the sentencing of 12 of his pro-Catalonia independence colleagues in Spain for their role in a 2017 secession push led by him.

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Judge Pablo Llarena issued the request on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds, the same charges for which nine received jail convictions Monday.

Puigdemont and several others fled to Belgium in October 2017 when they were summoned to appear before court to answer questions about the secession push and an illegal October 1 independence referendum.

Spain issued a first warrant for Puigdemonts arrest back in 2017 but later withdrew it after a German court ruled that he couldnt be extradited to Spain for rebellion, one of the initial charges.

13 years in jail

Earlier on Monday, Spains Supreme Court sentenced nine of the Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in jail for sedition over the failed 2017 independence bid.

Thousands of angry protesters took to the streets of Barcelona on Monday after the sentencing.

Demonstrators turned out en masse, blocking streets in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia as police braced for what activists said would be a mass response of civil disobedience.

The long-awaited ruling capped weeks of rising tension, and puts the Catalan question at the heart of the political debate less than a month before Spain heads into its fourth general election in as many years.

Ahead of the ruling, Barcelona had woken up to a heavy police presence, with forces noticeably visible around the regional high court, the main Sants train station and El Prat, Spains second busiest airport.

“I feel very affected by the sentence even though I expected it. I feel fury and a sense of powerlessness,” said Joan Guich, a 19-year-old maths student who was protesting on Gran Via.

“They have been convicted for an ideology which I agree with.”

The 12 defendants were put on trial in February for their role in the banned October 1, 2017, referendum and the short-lived independence declaration that followed it.

The harshest sentence of 13 years was handed to former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras who served as the main defendant in absence of Carles Puigdemont, the regions leader who fled Spain to avoid prosecution.

An outrage

In a tweet from Brussels before a new warrant was issued for his own arrest, Puigdemont denounced the sentences as an “outrage”.

“100 years in all. An outrage. Now more than ever, by your side and those of your families. It is time to react as never before,” he wrote.

And in a letter to his supporters released on Monday, Junqueras said the story was far from over.

“Nothing ends today, you neither win nor convince,” he wrote in remarks directed at Spains central government.

“We will come back even stronger… and win.”

Spains government has expressed hope that the trials end would allow it to move on from the crisis in the wealthy northeastern region, where support for independence had been gaining momentum over the past decade.

“Following the Supreme Court decision we need to turn the page based on peaceful co-existence in Catalonia through dialogue,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, speaking in English.

Democratic tsunami of protest

But Junqueras leftwing ERC party has said dialogue would not be possible without an “amnesty” for “political prisoners and those in exile”.

Barcelona Football Club also tweeted its own response to the ruling, saying: “Prison is not the solution.

“The resolution of the conflict in Catalonia must come exclusively from political dialogue.”

The separatist movement is hoping the guilty verdicts will unite their divided rankRead More – Source

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