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Spanish judge decides not to ‘provoke arrest’ of Carles Puigdemont in Denmark

The ruling came as politicians in Barcelona floated the idea that the fugitive leader should form a government in Catalonia.

A Spanish judge has refused to ask Danish authorities to arrest ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is in Copenhagen to attend a university debate and meet politicians.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena rejected the country’s prosecutor’s petition to issue a European arrest warrant, saying Mr Puigdemont was seeking to “provoke his arrest overseas”.

Mr Puigdemont’s trip came nearly three months after he fled to Belgium, dodging a Spanish investigation after the Catalan parliament’s secession declaration on Oct. 27.

Shortly after his arrival in Denmark, Catalonia’s parliamentary speaker proposed him as candidate to form a new government, despite his status as a fugitive.

Mr Llarena said on Monday, with the trip to Denmark and the risk of arrest that that brought, Mr Puigdemont was seeking to blame on Spain his absence from the Catalan parliament vote where a new regional leader needs to be elected.

“Facing the legal impossibility to be elected without being present at the Parliament, provoking his arrest overseas seeks to equip him with a justification that his absence is not a free decision as a fugitive, but the consequence of a situation that has been imposed on him,” wrote the judge in his decision rejecting the prosecutor’s request to re-activate a European arrest warrant for Mr Puigdemont.

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Roger Torrent speaking to the media in Barcelona (Manu Fernandez/AP)

Spanish courts initially sought Mr Puigdemont’s extradition from Belgium but cancelled that petition amid concerns Belgium might send him back but restrict the crimes with which he could be charged.

The push for independence by the Catalan government, while Mr Puigdemont was regional president, triggered Spain’s most serious political crisis in decades. Spain ousted Mr Puigdemont’s Cabinet, dissolved the regional parliament and called the December regional elections as part of special powers invoked following the independence declaration.

He and his 13 former Cabinet members face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, which carry jail sentences of up to 30 years under Spanish law.

Despite Mr Puigdemont’s legal situation, Catalan parliamentary speaker Roger Torrent said on Monday that the former president was the only candidate with enough backing to attempt a new government following the election last month.

Mr Torrent said he has written to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to request a meeting to talk about the “abnormal situation” in Catalonia.

But a government official close to Mr Rajoy said the central government had no intention of discussing judicial affairs with the Catalan speaker.

Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis had said the issue of how to proceed with Mr Puigdemont was for judges, and not the government, to decide.

“Mr  Puigdemont is subject to a process in Spain. Outside, for the moment, his movements are free within the European Union, but we’ll see,” Mr Dastis said in Brussels.

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