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article imageDeposed Catalan leader could stay in Belgium for three months

By AFP     Nov 4, 2017 in World

It could take three months for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers to be returned to Spain under a European arrest warrant, Belgian authorities said Saturday.

Spanish prosecutors want to charge Puigdemont with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over his role in the region's tumultuous independence drive, but the 54-year-old is in Brussels and has ignored a summons to appear in Madrid.

A Spanish judge has issued European arrest warrants for Puigdemont as well as Maria Serret Aleu, Antoni Comin Oliveres, Luis Puig Gordi and Clara Ponsati Obiols, according to the Belgian public prosecutor's office, confirming it had received them.

The prosecutor's office said that once Puigedemont and his colleagues are found and brought before an investigating judge, then a decision will be made within 24 hours.

"He (the judge) can decide not to issue an arrest warrant or he can issue an arrest warrant but possibly release the persons concerned under certain conditions," it said.

If any of the accused disagree with the judge's decision they can appeal.

"The EU Framework Decision provides that the final decision must be taken within 60 days, with an extension to 90 days under exceptional circumstances," the Belgian justice ministry said in a statement.

Puigdemont and his ex-ministers flew to Brussels after Spanish authorities removed him and his cabinet from office following the regional parliament's declaration of an independent republic of Catalonia.

"They still allow in some situations to refuse the execution of an European arrest warrant," said the justice ministry.

"If the decision is to execute the (warrant), the person is in principle surrendered to the authorities of the issuing state within 10 days following the decision," it said.

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