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Spain's Supreme Court rejects request to arrest Catalan ex-president

By Sara Shayanian
Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arrives at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark. Photo by Tariq Mikkel Khan/EPA
Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arrives at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark. Photo by Tariq Mikkel Khan/EPA

Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Spain's Supreme Court rejected a request by prosecutors to reactivate an arrest warrant for deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Denmark on Monday.

Puigdemont, who fled from Spain to Belgium after Madrid officials dissolved Catalonia's autonomy and issued arrest warrants for its former ministers last year, is facing charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement if he returns to his country.

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Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena refused the request for an arrest warrant for Puigdemont after Roger Torrent, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, nominated Puigdemont as the next Catalan premier.

The Supreme Court said Monday that a decision to reactivate the arrest warrant has been postponed until the Catalan parliament resumes normal activity.

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"Mr. Puigdemont is subject to a process in Spain," Alfonso Dastis, Spain's foreign minister, said. "Outside, for the moment, his movements are free within the European Union, but we'll see."

The former president, who will be arrested immediately if he returns to Spain, traveled to Copenhagen for a conference -- the first time he's left Brussels, Belgium, in 80 days.

The Spanish crime of rebellion has no exact equivalent in Belgium -- a fact which led Spanish authorities to drop the arrest warrant against Puigdemont in December. Brussels authorities would have sent Puigdemont to Spain on charges of misuse of public funds, but not on charges of rebellion.

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Puigdemont is trying to return to his position as Catalan's president after the region's snap election in December saw secessionist parties retaining their majority in parliament and hopes to read his speech in the regional parliament debates with the help of one of his MPs.

Although the ex-president is hoping to be sworn into his position via videolink, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says Puigdemont must attend any debates in person.

"It's absurd that someone may intend to be a candidate to be the head of the regional government while being in Brussels and running away from justice," Rajoy said.

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"This is no longer just a judicial and political problem. This [is] a problem of pure common sense."

Spain's government, led by Rajoy, assumed control over Catalonia in October after Puigdemont's government held a referendum vote to secede from Spain.

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