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Puigdemont, ex-Catalan officials freed from jail in Belgium

By
Sara Shayanian

Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four other ex-government officials were conditionally released from custody by a Belgian judge Monday.

The judge said the five former Catalan leaders -- who are wanted by Spain on charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of public funds -- would be released on the condition that they don't leave the country.

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The ex-officials will also have to reside at a fixed address, attend all related court hearings and comply with Belgian authorities while they are out of custody.

The decision comes after all five fled last week to Belgium after Madrid prosecutors started discussing bringing charges against officials involved in orchestrating Catalonia's Oct. 1 independence referendum. Puigdemont fled the same day.

Other Catalan officials who did not flee and appeared in court were also put in jail to avert potential flight.

After warrants were issued, Pugidemont and the other officials turned themselves in to Belgian authorities Sunday.

The former Catalonia officials are set to appear in court later this month. Belgium has a maximum of 60 days to return them to Spain.

The ruling of the Cassation Court will be the final decision.

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Despite its European Union status, Belgium is one of few countries that won't dismiss political-asylum applications from other EU member nations.

Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders also have a good relationship with the Belgian party New Flemish Alliance, the leader of which said Puigdemont is "always welcome here."

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