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Arrest warrant dropped for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Arrest warrant dropped for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Spanish media reported earlier on Tuesday that Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena had withdrawn the European arrest warrant against Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, Antonio Comín, Lluís Puig, Meritxell Serret and Clara Ponsatí, who had fled to Brussels on the 30 of October.

The court said Carles Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members also in Belgium had shown a willingness to return to Spain to take part in Catalonia's December 21 regional election.

In a statement, the court said Judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case, made a decision to withdraw the warrant as the five have said they want to come back to Spain to participate in regional elections.

On Tuesday, a Spanish judge, however, said that individual EAWs were not valid for crimes allegedly committed by a wider group of people - in this case, the whole Catalan government.

The Spanish arrest warrant remains.

There were no immediate reactions by Puigdemont and aides in Brussels to the judge's announcement, but defense lawyer Paul Bekaert was taken by surprise when he heard the news from a reporter.

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Despite Mr Puigdemont's position in Belgium, he addressed a political rally in Catalonia via video link for the official campaign launch.

Although the European Union and global arrest warrants have been withdrawn, the Spanish arrest warrants still remain and the five ex-officials will be arrested when they return to Spain.

The charges against the Catalans are punishable by years in prison.

Puigdemont is facing charges of sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

The sacked vice president Oriol Junqueras and three other separatist leaders will remain in prison during a probe into their role in the bid for independence.

The regional government was dissolved and the national parliament hopes elections will restore normality to Catalonia.