Exiled former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been arrested in Italy, his lawyer and an aide said, four years after fleeing Spain after an independence referendum that Madrid ruled unconstitutional.
The European Parliament member (MEP) was expected to appear in court on Friday at a hearing that could see him extradited to Spain to face sedition charges.
The Catalan leader – who has been based in Belgium since the 2017 referendum – was detained in Alghero, Sardinia, his chief of staff, Josep Lluis Alay, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“At his arrival at Alghero airport, he was arrested by Italian police. Tomorrow [Friday], he’ll appear before the judges of the court of appeal of Sassari, who will decide whether to let him go or extradite him,” Alay said.
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, wrote on social media that the exiled separatist leader was arrested on his arrival in Italy, where he was travelling in his capacity as an MEP.
He said the arrest was made on the basis of a warrant issued in October 2019 that had since been suspended.
Puigdemont, 58, is wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition over his attempts to have the Catalan region break away from Madrid through the 2017 referendum.
His arrest comes a week after the left-leaning Spanish government and regional Catalan authorities resumed negotiations to find a solution to Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.