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Spain Issues Arrest Warrant For Catalan Leader

Nov 4, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A Spanish judge has issued an arrest warrant for Catalonia's deposed president who presided over an effort to break away from Spain. He's since fled into exile, and some of the separatist aides he left behind are now behind bars. Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in Catalan).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Singing the Catalan national anthem, thousands of protesters surrounded the Catalan government building in Barcelona last night. They raised above their heads yellow placards that read, llibertat presos politics, freedom for political prisoners, in the local Catalan language.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Catalan).

FRAYER: The protests began Thursday night when nine ex-ministers of the Catalan government made a rare trip to Madrid to testify in their own defense at Spain's National Court and then were whisked away to a jail in police vans at the end of the session.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLICE SIRENS)

FRAYER: Only one has been released on bail. One of the protesters in Barcelona, Lucas Llobet, said he voted separatists into his regional government and is appalled by how they've been removed from power.

LUCAS LLOBET: Today I'm so sad because the people what I vote are arrested and are in prison. I think it's the most anti-democratic thing that could happen in a country.

FRAYER: But Spain says it's preserving democracy by firing separatist leaders who broke Spanish law by holding an illegal referendum and then declaring independence. Only about half of Catalans support that. A Madrid judge has issued an international arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who fled earlier this week to Belgium.

CARLES PUIGDEMONT: (Speaking French).

FRAYER: "I told my lawyer I will comply with Belgian justice," he said in French in an interview with Belgian TV last night. But he said he would not comply with Spanish justice, which he says is politicized. Belgian authorities are studying the arrest warrant today. They will decide whether to extradite Puigdemont, a process that could take several weeks.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOUVARIS' “PIBNO”) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.