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The Spanish Supreme Court withdrew on Tuesday the worldwide warrant for the arrest of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

He and four allies have refused to return to Spain to face the charges.

The explanation Llarena gave for his decision was that the crime of "rebellion", which carries a possible prison sentence of 30 years, does not exist in Belgium, meaning that if Puigdemont was returned to Spain by the Belgian authorities, it would be to face the lesser charge of misuse of public funds and the Spanish court would not be able to try him for the more serious offense.

Six other Catalan politicians who had been jailed with Junqueras since early November were released from jails near Madrid late Monday after the 100,000-euro ($118,000) bail a Supreme Court judge set for them earlier in the day was posted.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after the failure of his attempt to secure independence for the autonomous Spanish region following a referendum on October 1.

Madrid hopes the elections will restore normality to the wealthy northeastern region, which declared independence in vain following the referendum. The charges carry maximum penalties of decades in prison. Mr. Puigdemont is hoping to run for re-election from Brussels.

"We also highlighted the danger for the impediment of their human rights in Spain", Bekaert said.

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However, pro-independence parties view the election as a proxy vote on a split from Spain.

The Spanish government called the early elections in a bid to find a democratic way out of the nation's worst crisis in almost four decades.

The poll showed parties that back Spanish unity would capture 68-69 seats. But 53-year-old contractor Jose Luis Aguirre said the attempt to unilaterally break away from Spain "is an act that can not be allowed". Puigdement is running as the candidate for the Junts Per Catalunya party, despite his exile.

"Those who commit criminal acts must place themselves at the mercy of legal rulings", Zoido said.

Catalonia will hold fresh regional elections on December 21, called by the central government after it took direct control of the region.

Because the Belgian penal code doesn't have an equivalent for a charge of "rebellion", the Spanish court withdrew the worldwide warrants to allow for legal action against Puigdemont, as rebellion is one of the most serious crimes attributed to him.


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