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Ex-Catalan Leader Carles Puigdemont Arrested In Germany Over Referendum

Ex-Catalan Leader Carles Puigdemont Arrested In Germany Over Referendum

Puigdemont had been wanted in Spain since leading a parliamentary session in October a year ago that saw separatist lawmakers vote for the region of Catalonia to declare independence from Spain.

The regional government claimed that 90% of those who voted (estimated at 43% of the population) were in favour of independence - but Spain's constitutional court later ruled the vote illegal.

Puigdemont was recently in Finland, where he attended meetings at the Finnish parliament and gave a talk on Friday at Helsinki University.

Spanish and German press said Sunday that the Catalan leader was being held at a police station in the German northern town of Schuby.

Issuing an global arrest warrant for Puigdemont on Friday, Judge Pablo Llarena accused the ousted Catalan leader of organising the independence referendum in October past year despite a ban from Madrid and "grave risk of violent incidents".

Puigdemont's detention puts his fate in the hands of German courts, which will have to decide whether to pass him to Spanish authorities to face charges of "rebellion and misuse of public funds".

The Spanish prosecutor's office said on Sunday it was working closely with counterparts in Germany and EU agency Eurojust to provide all of the information needed to make the European arrest warrant for Puigdemont effective.

Mr Puigdemont was detained while travelling from Finland back to Belgium, where he has been living since October.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, centre, walks in the park with elected Catalan lawmakers of his Together for Catalonia party in Brussels on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.

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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.

Puigdemont's supporters, however, lamented his capture and said they hoped Germany won't honor Spain's extradition request.

Puigdemont "was arrested today (Sunday) at 11:19 am by Schleswig-Holstein's highway patrol force", a German police spokesman told AFP, adding that the detention was based on a European warrant.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge reactivated an worldwide arrest warrant for Puigdemont on Friday when he was visiting Finland.

In Barcelona, riot police shoved and struck protesters with batons to keep an angry crowd from advancing on the office of the Spanish government's representative.

German police said they arrested Puigdemont in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on the arrest warrant, which was issued by Spain.

We recall that the Supreme Court of Spain issued a European arrest warrant for the former chairman of the Catalan government and four other politicians who left Spain.

He said only that Puigdemont, the former Catalan regional president, had been en route to Belgium where he has been living in self-imposed exile since late past year. She had moved to Scotland from Belgium earlier this month.

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