Spanish Judge Issues Warrant For Deposed Catalan President

Nov 3, 2017
Originally published on November 3, 2017 3:41 pm

The Spanish government took control of the Catalan region a week ago. Separatist politicians were jailed in Madrid on Thursday, pending a trial. And Friday, a Spanish judge issued an arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan president.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's catch up on what has been a dramatic 24 hours in Spain. We've been tracking developments in the attempt by Catalan separatists to secede from Spain. The Spanish government took control of the region a week ago. Yesterday, separatist politicians were jailed in Madrid pending a trial. And today, a Spanish judge has issued an arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan president. We are joined by reporter Lauren Frayer from Madrid. Hey, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So this Spanish judge has issued an arrest warrant. But the Catalan president is no longer in Spain. Is that right?

FRAYER: That's correct. He's in Belgium. Carles Puigdemont fled there a few days ago. He was summoned to court in Madrid yesterday. He did not show up. Some of his ex-ministers did, and they were jailed at the end of the session. And now a Spanish judge has ordered an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont's arrest. In the warrant, the judge accuses Puigdemont of insurrection. And just as it was issued, Puigdemont happened to be on Belgian TV, giving an interview.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT CARLES PUIGDEMONT: (Speaking French).

FRAYER: So there he is speaking in French. And he says, "I will not flee from justice. I want justice." He says he'll work with Belgian authorities. And he's speaking there just moments before the warrant was issued for his arrest. But it's something he was expecting.

KELLY: All right. Well, meanwhile, speaking of arrests, tell us a little bit more about these ex-ministers who showed up in Madrid not expecting that they were going to spend the night in jail.

FRAYER: Right. So this was a rare trip that they made to Madrid, sort of crossing battle lines to testify on their own behalf in what ended up as sort of a tacit recognition of Spanish courts and institutions that they say they no longer recognize. They were ordered to jail at the end of that session. One was released on bail this morning.

All of the Catalan - deposed Catalan ministers, Puigdemont included, face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. And that's for presiding over a disputed independence referendum and then declaring independence from Spain one week ago today.

KELLY: All right. What has been the reaction to all of this in Catalonia?

FRAYER: Well, the streets of the Catalan capital, Barcelona, are already filled with protesters. They have been since last night since those ex-ministers were ordered to jail. Roads are blocked today by demonstrators. There's a whole slate of weekend demonstrations planned, and that was even before the Puigdemont arrest warrant was issued.

Banners have gone up across Catalonia on town halls, calling these people political prisoners. Spain says they're not political prisoners. They - Spain says they broke laws by holding this illegal independence referendum and then declaring independence.

KELLY: Wow. Sounds like it might be quite a weekend on the streets in Barcelona. You know, as this makes its way through the legal process, where are you watching for next?

FRAYER: Well, Belgian officials will study that warrant and decide whether to arrest Puigdemont and extradite him. The warrant covers four other ex-ministers who are with him in Belgium. They would join the rest of their government here in jail in Spain. Meanwhile, we're looking ahead to fresh elections in Catalonia next month, December 21. Puigdemont and his jailed aides have all said they'll run in those polls. So it's really unclear how they can campaign from behind bars and how those polls can be free and fair if that's the case.

KELLY: And just briefly, Lauren, tell us a little bit more about why these new elections are being held. There was just a big vote in Catalonia.

FRAYER: So it's part of this unprecedented takeover of the Catalonia region by Madrid, an attempt to sort of reset politics there, fire politicians and let the people elect new ones.

KELLY: All right. That's reporter Lauren Frayer speaking to us about all the goings-on in Spain and beyond. Thanks very much.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "NEVER CATCH ME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.