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Sacked Catalan leader Puigdemont, deputies turns self in to Belgian police

Belgian authorities have in custody the former Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his deputies who escaped Spain following a crackdown to block the independence of the northeastern Spanish region.

Puigdemont and four members of his now-dismantled cabinet turned themselves in to police in the Belgian capital of Brussels on Sunday, hours after authorities said they were studying warrants issued for the separatist leaders by Spain.

Puigdemont flew to Belgium after the Spanish government dismantled his government and took over the control of Catalonia on October 28, a day after the separatists declared independence from Spain based on results of a controversial referendum that came earlier that month.

Spain’s Supreme Court then summoned the five politicians, along nine other members of the former regional government, to face charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust. Puigdemont and the four associates who are in Belgium did not appear in the hearing last Thursday. The nine others were jailed after attending the National Court in Madrid although one was later released on a 50,000-euro bail.

Puigdemont’s decision to turn himself in to police comes amid reports that he is planning to contest fresh elections called by the Spanish government for Catalonia. New polls suggest he and other pro-independence parties would nominate the December 21 votes and capture most seats in the next Catalan parliament. However, the polls said the pro-independence parties ERC, PDECat and CUP would fall short of a majority needed to revive the secession campaign.

The polls by GAD3 and the conservative newspaper La Razo, conducted between October 30 and November 3, said pro-Madrid parties would divide seats but would garner around 54 percent of the vote. The GAD3 survey said the new election would see a record turnout of 83 percent.

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