The deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, could face an arrest warrant if he fails to appear in court to testify over his part in last week’s declaration of independence, the president of Spain’s supreme court said on Thursday.
Puigdemont, who is currently in Brussels, has been summoned to attend Spain’s national court to give evidence today and tomorrow. He and 13 other members of his ousted administration could be charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over the Catalan parliament’s decision to declare regional independence last Friday.
“When someone doesn’t appear after being cited by a judge to testify, in Spain or any other EU country, normally an arrest warrant is issued,” said Carlos Lesmes, president of the supreme court.
Puigdemont’s lawyer said his client intended to remain in Brussels.
“The climate is not good, it is better to take some distance,” Paul Bekaert told Reuters on Thursday. “If they ask, he will cooperate with Spanish and Belgian justice.
|Former members of the Catalan government arrive at Spain’s national court in Madrid on Thursday morning. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
News of the possible arrest warrant came as prosecutors asked the national court to jail eight ex-members of the fired Catalan government. The judge has yet to decide on the request.
Members of the separatist government began arriving to testify in Madrid early on Thursday morning. The hearing at the national court, which deals with major criminal cases, began at 9am and will continue on Friday.
Catalonia’s former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, was the first to arrive at the court. He went in accompanied by lawyers, passing by dozens of journalists, and declining to answer questions.
|First to arrive at the court was the dismissed Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, right. Photograph: Javier Barbancho/Reuters
An in dependence referendum on October 1 – which heavy-handed Spanish police tried and failed to stop – was followed by a declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament last Friday.
Later that day, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s government dismissed the regional government and moved to impose direct rule on the wealthy north-eastern region.
On Monday, Spain’s chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges of rebellion – punishable by up to 30 years in prison – sedition and misuse of public funds against the 14.
The speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, and five parliamentary deputies were also due to be questioned over the same alleged offences, but a judge at Spain’s supreme court adjourned the hearing until next Thursday following a request from their lawyers.The Guardian