The Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont and four former counsellors’ whereabouts is still unknown, and they are effectively fugitives from Spanish justice following Madrid’s demand for a European Arrest Warrent for the quintet.
They are believed to be in Belgium, whose justice system will now be asked to enforce the warrant. A Belgian magistate, upon receiving the warrant, must summon the men, accused of rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement among other things. The magistrate then has 24 hours to decide whether or not to detain them until their extradition, or release them on conditional bail. The Belgian magistrate does have a third option, to reject Spain’s European Arrest Warrant demand altogether, as the Justice Minister Koen Geens reminded everyone on Saturday, but his would take the procedure into uncharted waters, and spark a diplomatic crisis.
Puigdemont has tweeted in Catalan and Flemish, calling for a new Catalan coalition for snap elections, and indicating his groups willingness to co-operate with Belgian justice.
A demonstration in the similarly-separatist-minded Basque Country against Madrid’s assuming direct control over Catalonia will not have gone unnoticed. The Basques fought a terror campaign for more than 50 years demanding independence, only abandoning the deadly struggle in 2011.