Catalan leader Puigdemont faces extradition from Belgium

Catalan leader Puigdemont faces extradition from Belgium


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The sacked former Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont faces an extradition hearing in Belgium on Monday as Spain seeks to have him sent back to face sedition charges over his region’s independence drive.

A judge sitting behind closed doors in Brussels will hear from lawyers for Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, who all fled to Belgium in October despite a summons to appear in court in Spain, claiming they would not get a fair trial.

The former Catalan leader and members of his government are being prosecuted in Spain for offenses and disobedience, rebellion, abuse of government money and incitement. There is a maximum penalty of 30 years.

Today’s hearing comes on the eve of the official start of campaigning for December 21 elections in Catalonia, ordered by Madrid to “restore normality” to the wealthy northeastern region, which declared independence unilaterally following a hotly disputed October 1 referendum.

In Spain, imprisoned former vice-president of Catalonia Oriol Junqueras and three other jailed members of his ERC party will abide by a ruling giving Madrid control over the region, their defense lawyer said on Tuesday.

Junqueras and seven other former members of the Catalonia regional cabinet were jailed on Nov. 2 pending trial, accused of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds after the local government declared independence from Spain.

Barely a quarter of Catalans want to continue with a plan to claim independence from Spain in the wake of Dec. 21 regional elections, according to a poll published in El Pais newspaper.

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