The lawyer of ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said a warrant for his client’s arrest had been issued – a claim disputed by a court source in Spain.
Paul Bekaert claimed on Belgian television that an arrest warrant for the politician had been issued by the Spanish courts – but an official, speaking to Reuters, has insisted this was not the case.
The conflicting reports emerged as Mr Puigdemont spoke on Catalan television, calling on supporters to demonstrate against the Spanish authorities “peacefully and with respect for everybody’s opinions”.
He added: “The fury with which the Spanish government has attacked a beautiful European nation is outrageous and is threatening us all.”
Thursday night’s protests came after 20 seccessionist leaders were summoned to two courts in Madrid to answer questions – with only 15 turning up.
Judge Carmen Lamela then ordered eight ministers who did adhere with the summons to be jailed unconditionally. A ninth could be set free if they pay a bond of €50,000 (£38,290).
Reacting to the jailing of his former colleagues on Twitter, Mr Puigdemont said that “the legitimate government of Catalonia has been jailed for its ideas”.
Posting with a photo of protesters, he added: “The serene clamour of the Catalans is of freedom.”
After Mr Puigdemont’s no show in court, the president of the Spanish Supreme Court said it would be “normal” to issue a European arrest warrant, adding to tensions.
The ousted leader’s lawyer has said his client would cooperate with the courts and Belgian police if necessary.
“If they ask, he will cooperate with Spanish and Belgian justice,” said Mr Bekaert, who ruled out the possibility of his client asking for asylum in Belgium by saying it was “off the table”.
Lawyers for the nine detained former ministers said they planned to appeal the move and insisted they wanted the people of Catalonia to stay calm.
The Supreme Court has adjourned hearings until 9 November to give them time to prepare a defence.
The National Court has also been questioning the ousted Catalan parliament members – with former regional government spokesman Jordi Turull and minister for territorial affairs Josep Rull appearing there on Thursday.
An investigation could take years before it leads to a trial.
Mr Puigdemont, and 19 others, face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
The crimes being investigated are punishable with up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.
An arrest warrant makes it virtually impossible for Mr Puigdemont to stand in a snap election, called for 21 December, after the Catalan government was dissolved by Spain in light of the vote for independence.