Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrested in Sardinia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a failed secession attempt for the northeastern region in 2017, was arrested in Sardinia, Italy on Thursday , said his lawyer.

Puigdemont, who lives in Belgium and now holds a seat in the European Parliament, fought extradition to Spain, which accused him and other Catalan independence leaders of sedition.

Hi lawyer Gonzalo Boye said Puigdemont was arrested on his arrival in Sardinia, where he was due to attend an event this weekend.

The circumstances in which Puigdemont was taken into custody were not immediately clear. Boye wrote on Twitter that the former regional president had been detained under a 2019 European arrest warrant, even though he had been suspended.

Police at the airport in northern Sardinia did not respond to phone calls on Thursday evening, while police in Alghero town said they were unaware of his detention.

The European Parliament voted in March to lift the immunity of Puigdemont and two of his collaborators. In July, the three EU lawmakers failed to get their immunity restored after the European Union’s General Court said they had failed to demonstrate that they were at risk of arrest.

Sardinian media reported earlier in the week that he was due to attend an event in Alghero on Sunday, so his presence on the Mediterranean island was expected. Sardinian media also reported that Puigdemont was invited by a Sardinian pro-separatist group.

Puigdemont’s office said in a statement he traveled to Alghero from Brussels to attend a folklore festival.

Puigdemont was transferred to a prison in Sassari, a town about 40 kilometers northeast of Alghero, Italian news agency ANSA reported. Earlier reports said a judge from Sassari would rule on Puigdemont’s release on Friday.

Puigdemont and a number of his separatist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing they would be arrested after holding a referendum on Catalonia’s independence that the Spanish courts and government declared illegal.

Nine Catalan separatists were sentenced to prison terms for their role in the 2017 referendum, ranging from nine to 13 years. They were pardoned in July.

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