Carles Puigdemont: Former Catalan independence leader arrested in Italy

24 September 2021, 06:04 | Updated: 24 September 2021, 09:05

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is accused of helping to organise an illegal independence referendum in Spain, has been detained in Italy.

Mr Puigdemont's lawyer Gonzalo Boye said the ex-Catalan regional president was being held on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain in 2019.

The former Catalan leader's office said he had travelled from Brussels to Alghero, northwest Sardinia, to attend the Adifolk International folklore festival when he was arrested on Thursday afternoon.

He was also due to meet with the regional head of Sardinia and its ombudsman.

Mr Puigdemont was then transferred to a jail in Sassari, a city about a 25-mile drive northeast of Alghero, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Earlier reports said a judge in Sassari would rule on Friday on whether Mr Puigdemont should be freed.

Sardinian media reported earlier in the week he was due to attend an event in Alghero on Sunday, so his presence on the Mediterranean island was expected.

It was also reported that Mr Puigdemont had been invited by a Sardinian pro-separatist group.

Protesters have been demonstrating outside Italy's consulate in Barcelona following Mr Puigdemont's arrest.

Police officers were seen keeping the demonstrators behind a cordon in the city which is the capital of Catalonia.

Protesters also applauded Jordi Turull, a former member of parliament in Catalonia, when he arrived at the protest on Friday morning.

Mr Puigdemont had been wanted by police for his role in a failed secession bid for the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia in 2017.

The 58-year-old, who now holds a seat in the European Parliament, and two of his associates lost their immunity from prosecution earlier this year.

They failed to get a court to restore it in July.

Mr Puigdemont and a number of his separatist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest after holding an independence referendum for Catalonia that the Spanish courts and government said was illegal.