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Belgian court postpones arrest warrant case for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

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By Luke Hurst
Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrives at court for his warrant case
Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrives at court for his warrant case   -   Copyright  Reuters

Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont has told reporters a hearing into an arrest warrant issued by Spain has been postponed until mid-December.

He was in a Brussels court for a hearing on the warrant, which marks the third time Spain has attempted to have him extradited on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.

The two previous attempts to have him sent back to Spain failed when local judges rejected the argument that he had led a rebellion.

Puigdemont was the leader of Catalonia when an illegal independence referendum was held in 2017.

He fled to Belgium after being forced from office by the Spanish government and has remained there in self-exile since.

When the new warrant was issued, Puigdemont handed himself in to Belgian authorities on Friday and was released without bail.

The court will now hear the matter on December 16, Puigdemont told reporters.

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Spain's acting deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, said on Tuesday her government would not understand if Belgium decided not to hand over Puigdemont.

"As we see it, it is not respectable for this to be denied to a democratic state after the Supreme Court sentence," she told broadcaster Onda Cero. 

A lawyer for Puigdemont, Simon Bekaert, said the legal arguments remained the same as they were just after the 2017 independence bid, when Spain put out the previous warrant for Puigdemont's arrest, which Belgium rejected.

"We will of course invoke immunity," Bekaert said.

Earlier this month, Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine of his former Catalan separatist colleagues to up to 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in the failed independence bid.

The decision has divided opinion in Spain and abroad, and in Catalonia daily demonstrations have been held, with some turning into running street battles between protesters and police.