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Catalan leader will not return to Madrid for court date

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Staff Writer | November 1, 2017
Despite being summoned to appear before a Spanish court on Thursday, Carles Puigdemont’s lawyer said the ousted Catalan leader will not return to Spain to give testimony.
Carles Puigdemont
Europe   "We will fight against any extradition"
However, Spanish media report that the country's High Court in Madrid will not accept testimony from a distance.

Puigdemont, along with his pro-separatist government, is facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of funds after last Friday’s vote for Catalan independence.

Lawyers for several of the others being investigated have confirmed their clients will attend Thursday and Friday’s hearings in Madrid.

But tomorrow if Puigdemont or others do not show up to give testimony, the court will be able to issue an arrest warrant.

Pre-trial detention is also an option for other members of the government, as is currently the case with the leaders of two Catalan separatist associations.

“There will probably be an extradition petition to Belgium and the Belgian police will detain him,” Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a Spanish European Parliament deputy and spokesperson for Spain’s Popular Party told Onda Cero radio station.

“We have decided not to make a petition for asylum, but we will fight against any extradition,” Bekaert, who has also represented members of the Basque terrorist group ETA in the past, told Belgian broadcaster VRT on Tuesday.

Puigdemont’s new set-up in Belgium threatens to disrupt the country’s fragile national government.

The Belgian government is composed of a four-party ruling coalition led by French-speaking Prime Minister Charles Michel, but the three other parties are Flemish.

The party with the most seats is the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a separatist party that has been supportive of the Catalan government.

“Catalan people who feel politically threatened can ask for asylum in Belgium. That includes President Puigdemont,” Theo Francken, state secretary for asylum and migration told a local broadcaster over the weekend.

However, Michel later publicly told the minister not to "fan the flames” and on Tuesday clarified that Puigdemont had not come to Belgium at his invitation.