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Ex-Catalan Leader, Freed in Brussels, Flays Spain

Ex-Catalan Leader, Freed in Brussels, Flays Spain

Monday, 6 November, 2017 - 14:30 رقم العدد [ 14223]
Dismissed Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont was released with conditions Sunday night after turning himself in to a Belgian judge. AFP/ Getty Images

Catalonia's sacked separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Monday lambasted Spain in his first online comment after being released from custody in Belgium, where he's fighting extradition for allegedly plotting a rebellion in Catalonia.

Puigdemont and four former ministers were released with conditions Sunday night after turning themselves in to Belgian authorities to face a Spanish warrant for their arrest on charges of rebellion and sedition.

Puigdemont posted Monday on his Twitter account hours after the five were released Sunday night: "Free and without bail." He says "our thoughts are with the comrades unjustly jailed by a state that strays far from democratic practices."

A Brussels investigative judge ruled there was no reason to put the five politicians behind bars and released them on condition they stay in Belgium and attend their court sessions within two weeks.

A Spanish judge in Madrid had on Thursday put Puigdemont's deputy and seven other deposed regional ministers behind bars because of a risk they would flee.

Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders insisted it was a legal matter and not one for politicians to deal with, despite recent criticism of Spain from some Flemish separatist members of his own government.

"We must let the Belgian and Spanish courts do their work," Reynders told his country's media.

Puigdemont and his allies escaped to Belgium last Monday after Spain dismissed the Catalan executive and imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region following the declaration of independence by the parliament there last month.

Spain issued European arrest warrants on Friday after Puigdemont and his allies ignored a summons to appear before a judge on allegations linked to the move to declare Catalonia an independent republic.

Puigdemont's PDeCAT party said Sunday that he had turned himself in to show his "willingness not to flee from the judicial process but to defend himself in a fair and impartial process, which is possible in Belgium, and highly doubtful in Spain".

The next court hearing will be in the following 15 days. Belgium has up to 60 days to decide whether to send the Catalans back to Spain.

Puigdemont has said he and his colleagues -- Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig and Clara Ponsati -- would cooperate with the Belgian authorities.

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