Catalan leaders held in Belgium on Spanish charges

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Earlier, Belgian justice minister Koen Geens said his government would have no influence over the future of Mr Puigdemont or the four other Catalan officials because the European Arrest Warrants issued by Spain are "a completely legal procedure".

The charges against him are rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers left for Belgium last week as the Spanish government, seeking to quash Catalan separatists' escalating steps to secede, applied constitutional authority to take over running the region.

Puigdemont's lawyer in Belgium also said the arrest warrant had been prepared, but there has not yet been official confirmation from Spain's government.

The judge also has the option of not detaining them but imposing conditions on their freedom, such as orders to remain in Belgium, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gilles Dejemeppe told The Associated Press.

Mr Puigdemont has said he would be willing to co-operate with the Belgian judiciary but that he had lost confidence in Spanish justice, which he claimed has become politicised.

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Also in the interview he said that he was "willing to be a candidate" in the regional elections on December 21 and added that he could campaign from overseas. A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

An opinion poll published by La Vanguardia shows the December election Rajoy scheduled is too close to call, with projections for a near even split of seats for pro-independence and non-separatist parties.

October 30: Puigdemont arrives in Brussels, Belgium, after fleeing Spain.

"If we add the issue of independence, we won't get as many people to support us", said Mas, who was the first Catalan leader to harness the political momentum for secession.

Catalonia's push for independence has triggered Spain's worst political crisis in decades. Spanish authorities have sought Puigdemont's arrest for his connection to the recent attempt of Catalan independence.

Fueled by questions of cultural identity and economic malaise, secessionist sentiment has skyrocketed to reach roughly half of the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia, a prosperous region that is proud of its Catalan language spoken along with Spanish.

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