Former Cataluña leader hands himself in to police in Belgium

THE former president of Cataluña, Carles Puigdemont,  and four others who fled from Spain to Brussels have handed themselves in to police in Belgium.

Puigdemont, accompanied by his lawyer, and  Antoni Comín (Health), Clara Ponsatí (Education), Lluís Puig (Culture) and Meritxell Serret (Agriculture) presented themselves to the police thus avoiding arrest.

On Friday Spanish National Court judge Carmen Lamela issued an European Arrest Warrant for the group still in Brussels. 

A judge in Brussels has 24 hours to decide whether the request is in accordance with the law.

The court  will also decide whether Puigdemont and the other four government members should “remain in prison or released under conditions” that prevent their escape, such as passport withdrawal or electronic surveillance.

Puigdemont, speaking on television in Belgium, had already said he would  cooperate with the authorities on the arrest warrant. 

“I won’t flee justice; I’m willing to submit to justice, but to real justice.

“The Spanish courts can’t guarantee a fair and independent sentence that will be free of the enormous weight and influence of politics.”

“You mustn’t forget that we’re the legitimate government.”

Under European arrest warrant procedures, individuals are detained and brought before judges within 24 hours. A court then has 15 days to decide whether to execute the arrest order, according to the Belgian Justice Ministry.

Including time for possible appeals, a final decision must be taken with three months and Puigdemont, in this case, would then have to be surrendered to Spain within 10 days.

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