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Ousted Catalan leader Spain examines possible Swiss arrest of Puigdemont

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont meets his party for a working session in Brussels, Belgium on March 14, 2018

(Keystone)

Spanish prosecutors say they are examining whether Carles Puigdemont, the fugitive ex-president of Spain's Catalonia region, can be arrested and extradited during his private visit to Geneva, Switzerland, this weekend. 

The Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on Thursday that it had asked the government and Interpol to assess this option. It also said it was asking the Spanish Supreme Court, which is considering charges of sedition and rebellion against Puigdemont, to consider revoking his passport. 

On October 27, the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence following a banned referendum on secession. Puigdemont has been living since last November in Brussels, where he fled to avoid arrest as part of a Spanish investigation into his role in recent events in Catalonia. 

Puigdemont is due to attend the International Film Festival and the Forum on Human Rights in Geneva on Sunday after accepting an invitation.

The Swiss authorities, meanwhile, say the issue of Catalan independence is "an internal matter for Spain". On Thursday, the French news agency AFP cited a Swiss foreign affairs ministry statement, which said: “The Swiss and Spanish authorities are in contact... As a Spanish citizen, Mr Puigdemont is entitled to travel freely within the [European visa-free] Schengen area. He is also at liberty to give political speeches with due respect for the Swiss legal system.”

+ Catalan politician who has sought self-imposed exile in Switzerland

In an interview with Swiss public television, RTS, on Wednesdayexternal link, Puigdemont praised the Swiss federal system.

"If Spain proposes a model like the one in Switzerland, I think that would be an idea we could work with and perhaps an idea that could convince the majority of Catalans," Puigdemont declared. Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons, or regions, which enjoy considerable autonomy. 

If Spain were organised in this way, "there would be none of the problems there that we are seeing now”, he added. 

On March 1, Catalonia's fugitive ex-leader unexpectedly announced that he was temporarily withdrawing his bid to be re-appointed as Catalan president. 

But he told RTS: “I was elected the president of the government, which was illegally pushed from power. I am still the legitimate president.”

SDA-ATS/AFP/sb

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