BRUSSELS – The Latest on the crisis in Spain over lawmakers in Catalonia voting for independence (all times local):
Belgian federal prosecutors are confirming that they have received European arrest warrants from Spain for five people including ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
The prosecutor's office said Saturday that "once the persons involved are found and brought before an investigating judge, (the judge) will have 24 hours to make a decision." It said the judge can decide whether or not to arrest the five politicians and whether they should be kept in custody for promoting independence for Catalonia.
The five were named as Puigdemont, Maria Serret Aleu, Antoni Comin Oliveres, Lluis Puig Gordi and Clara Ponsati Obiols. They are in hiding.
Prosecutors said Friday they could bring the five in over the weekend or even on Monday, saying that investigators "are in no hurry."
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is a wanted man after Spain issued a European warrant for his arrest — and the main question is how long he could delay the extradition process in Belgium and stay out of the hands of Spanish justice.
Puigdemont and several aides fled to Belgium after they were fired by Spanish authorities after lawmakers in Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain despite repeated warnings that it would violate the nation's constitution. It is thought that all five are still hiding in Belgium — their exact whereabouts are unclear.
The deepening crisis over Catalonia is Spain's worst constitutional challenge in nearly four decades. Puigdemont and the four other former ministers are being sought for five different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in a Spanish investigation into their roles in pushing for secession for Catalonia.
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said his government will have no influence over the future of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont or four other Catalan officials because the European arrest warrant issued by Spain "is a completely legal procedure."
He said, unlike a normal international extradition, "the executive power does not play any role in the EAW procedure. Everything goes through direct contact between the justice authorities."
Puigdemont's Belgian lawyer did not answer calls requesting comment on the arrest warrant but has said his client will fight extradition to Spain without seeking political asylum. Belgian federal prosecutors say they could question Puigdemont in the coming days.
Puigdemont, who is in hiding, has said he would be willing to cooperate with the Belgian judiciary but that he had lost confidence in Spanish justice, which he claimed has become politicized.
The Catalans are being sought for different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for pushing for secession for Catalonia.