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Spain withdraws European arrest warrant for Puigdemont

Spain withdraws European arrest warrant for Puigdemont
From Al Jazeera - December 5, 2017

Spain's top court has withdrawn a European arrest warrant for dismissed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four former ministers who had escaped to Brussels because they showed intent to return to Spain and participate in upcoming elections.

But Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena said on Tuesday that the five Catalans still face charges in Spain of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for their roles in staging in a secession referendum in October, which Madrid deemed illegal.

Al Jazeera's Karl Penhaul, reporting from Barcelona, said: "The judge is withdrawing the international request for arrest against [the five] ... That will effectively end extradition proceedings that were under way in Brussels.

"What it does not do is lift the arrest warrants for those people here in Spain."

In Spain, the crimes the five are accused of carry sentences of years in prison. The group could still be arrested if they return to Madrid.

"The definition of rebellion that Spanish authorities [adhere to] is not categorised as such under Belgian law. Hence, if the Belgian authorities extradited them, they could not face those charges in Spain which could carry a 30-year sentence," saidPenhaul.

Our correspondent said Puigdemont and the ministers were likely to avoid returning to Spain to prevent arrest there.

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