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Spain to seek Catalan politician’s arrest on Denmark visit

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, center, stands with elected Catalan lawmakers of his Together for Catalonia party Jan. 12, 2018 at a park in Brussels. (Virginia Mayo / Associated Press)
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, center, stands with elected Catalan lawmakers of his Together for Catalonia party Jan. 12, 2018 at a park in Brussels. (Virginia Mayo / Associated Press)
By Joseph Wilson Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain – The office of Spain’s state prosecutor said Sunday it will move to reissue a European arrest warrant for the fugitive former leader of Catalonia if he leaves Belgium and enters Denmark as planned.

The region’s ex-president, Carles Puigdemont, is scheduled to attend a debate Monday at the University of Copenhagen titled “Catalonia and Europe at a Crossroads for Democracy.”

The trip would be Puigdemont’s first outside Belgium since he fled there to avoid a court summons in Spain for his role in an illegal– and unsuccessful– secession bid led by his government in October.

If Puigdemont makes it to Denmark, the prosecutor’s office said it would immediately ask the Spain Supreme Court to approve a European warrant for his arrest by Danish authorities.

Spain issued a European warrant for Puigdemont’s arrest in November, but withdrew it after a month based on concerns that Brussels would send the Catalan politician back while restricting the crimes with which he could be charged.

Spain is investigating Puigdemont for possible rebellion, sedition and embezzlement linked to a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia’s parliament on Oct. 27.

His proposed appearance at the debate in the Danish capital comes while Puigdemont is trying to be reinstated as the regional president of Catalonia.

Spain’s prime minister removed Puigdemont and his Cabinet from office and dissolved Catalonia’s parliament as part of a crackdown on the separatist push. But pro-secession political parties won the most seats in the December election for a new parliament, which must form a government by the end of the month.

It remains unclear how Puigdemont could be sworn in again as regional president without returning to Spain and therefore putting himself open to likely arrest.

The Spanish government has vowed to impede Puigdemont’s reinstatement with court challenges, if necessary, and to keep direct control over the region until a new government takes over.

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