Barcelona: Five Catalan leaders including ousted President Carles Puigdemont appeared before the Belgian Police on Sunday. However, after the initial hearing, a Belgian judge has granted them conditional release. Therefore, the Catalan leaders can now freely stay in Belgium. Meanwhile, the action taken by the Spanish Government in Catalonia has evoked strong reactions and protests have been held in Basque region of Spain and Southern France in support of Catalonia.
The Spanish Government issued ‘EU arrest warrant’ for the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four ministers on Saturday. Therefore, possibility of arrest of Puigdemont and the other leaders in Belgium and their extradition to Spain was being indicated. However after the news of the warrant surfaced, Carles Puigdemont and the four leaders presented themselves before the Belgian police. The Belgian judge, in the immediate hearing held, decided not to execute the arrest of the Catalan leaders. At that time, Puigdemont assured to cooperate with the Belgian judicial system and attend all future hearings.
After the five leaders including Puigdemont were released, their party in Catalonia announced that Puigdemont will continue to be the leader in the upcoming elections. The Spanish government has announced that elections will be held in Catalonia on 21 December. Parties proclaiming Catalan independence are also going to participate in these elections. In the survey conducted in the last few days in Catalonia, the pro-independence parties have been predicted to be in the lead.
On this background, the number of people protesting against the actions taken by the Spanish government and supporting Catalan independence has increased. On Saturday, protests were held in Basque as well as Southern France in support of Catalan independence. Approximately 2000 people participated in the protest in France’s Pyrenees area demanding a ‘United Catalonia State’. Banners that said ‘We are Northern Catalonia, We want to decide’ were also wielded.
Protests were also held in the Basque region t in support of Catalonia on Saturday. Basque had also demanded independence from Spain a few decades ago. Banners condemning the actions of the Spanish Government were displayed in the city of Bilbao. Participation of thousands of people in the protest in spite of the rain is noteworthy. Some analysts in Spain have warned that an armed protest in Basque could spark if the government fails to handle the issue of Catalonia.