Spain prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for former president of Catalonia

A Spanish prosecutor asked a judge Thursday to issue an international arrest warrant for the former president of Catalonia and four of his regional ministers after they did not comply with a summons ordering them to appear in a Madrid court.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his Cabinet were summoned to Spain's National Court for questioning in a rebellion investigation stemming from the region's declaration of independence.

Puigdemont surfaced in Belgium on Tuesday with some of his ex-ministers, saying they were seeking “freedom and safety” there. He and four of the officials remained in Brussels on Thursday.

Nine former Catalan Cabinet members did show up in court, where prosecutors asked for eight to be jailed indefinitely and one to be held with eligibility for bail. The judge has not yet ruled on the request.

Meanwhile, six Catalan lawmakers appeared Thursday for a parallel session in Spain’s Supreme Court. They were given a week to prepare their defenses and instructed to return for questioning on Nov. 9.

In all, 20 regional politicians are being investigated on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for the declaration of secession the Parliament of Catalonia made on Oct. 27. The crimes are punishable by up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

Those summoned include Puigdemont, his 13-member Cabinet and six members of the regional Parliament.

Puigdemont's No. 2, former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, was the first to arrive Thursday at the National Court. He went in accompanied by lawyers, passing by dozens of journalists, and declined to answer questions.

The proceedings started with an appearance by the regional government's former spokesman, Jordi Turull. He was followed by Josep Rull, who handled the region's territorial affairs.

Spain took the unprecedented step of triggering constitutional powers allowing it to take over running Catalonia following the region's declaration of independence. Madrid dismissed the Catalan Cabinet, dissolved the regional parliament and called a new regional election for Dec. 21.

Javier Melero, a lawyer representing some of the separatist lawmakers investigated in the Supreme Court, criticized Puigdemont and the four ministers who skipped court. He said their actions would be damaging for his clients, three lawmakers who are members of Puigdemont's PDeCAT party.

“Not being at the service of the judiciary when you are summoned is always damaging for the rest of those being investigated,” Melero said.

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