German police arrest former Catalan leader

Carles Puigdemont, the fugitive ex-leader of Catalonia and ardent separatist, was arrested Sunday by German police on an worldwide warrant as he tried to enter the country from Denmark.

The crime of rebellion carries a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment, while sedition carries a 15-year penalty.

Puigdemont was stopped by German police entering from Denmark.

Puigdemont was detained by German police Sunday who were executing an global warrant issued by Spain on Friday. Reinforcements were called in after several hours to clear the neighbouring streets, with protestors tossing street barriers and burning two garbage bins as they retreated.

Puigdemont was detained shortly after noon in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein on the basis of the European arrest warrant issued by Spain.

Dpa photos showed a van with tinted windows believe to be carrying Puigdemont as it arrived at the prison Sunday afternoon.

State prosecutors in Schleswig said that Puigdemont will appear in court Monday in the northern German town to confirm his identity. "He has not been arrested".

Puidgemont could take his case to Germany's highest court, which had in 2005 blocked the extradition to Spain on an European Union arrest warrant of a German-Syrian al-Qaeda suspect.

German police arrested Puigdemont earlier on Sunday as he crossed over by vehicle from Denmark, where had been visiting lawmakers.

The Spanish Supreme Court had issued an global arrest warrant against Puigdemont previous year but withdrew it in December to avoid the risk of Belgian authorities granting him asylum. Arrest warrants have also been issued for five other Catalan separatists.

Aside from the scenes in Barcelona, the arrest of the fugitive ex-leader of secession-minded Catalonia has sparked mixed reactions in Spain.

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Polls show Catalans are nearly evenly divided on the issue of independence but the vast majority back holding a legal referendum to settle the question.

"We are at the start of the examination process", said Mr Döpper. "This is a movement of the people, not of one person".

Mr Puigdemont's lawyer said on Saturday that the former president had slipped out of Finland some time prior. Llarena ruled that a total of 25 Catalan separatists would be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobedience. Puigdemont had been visiting Finland since Thursday, but slipped out of the Nordic country before Finnish police could detain him.

While separatist parties won Catalonia's regional elections in December called by Madrid, they have been unable to form a government for the region as numerous leaders are in exile overseas or in jail.

Spain's government sacked Mr Puigdemont and his entire administration before dissolving the parliament as a result.

He had wanted to be re-elected as Catalonia's regional president - albeit while remaining overseas to avoid arrest - but eventually was stopped by a Spanish court.

Albert Rivera, the leader of the centrist party Ciudadanos which was set up in Catalonia to fight against separatism, welcomed Puigdemont's arrest.

Spain's Constitution says the nation is "indivisible" and any changes to its top law must be made by its national parliament in Madrid. He was returning from Finland to Belgium, where he fled following an illegal declaration of independence by the Spanish region in October.

On October 27, the Catalan government voted to declare independence from Spain. They called the Supreme Court judge a "fascist" and wrote the message that he is "not welcome in Das or anywhere".

Crowds clashed with police in downtown Barcelona on Sunday as angry Catalans protested the detention of fugitive former leader Carles Puigdemont in Germany.

He gave up his quest to reclaim the presidency earlier this month.

  • Megan Austin