Spain has withdrawn a European arrest warrant for Catalonia's sacked leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his deputies, who fled to Belgium after the regional parliament declared unilateral independence, the Supreme Court said yesterday.
In a ruling, Judge Pablo Llarena decided to withdraw the warrant as the five "appear to have shown their intention to return to Spain" to take part in regional elections on December 21.
But Llarena, who is in charge of the case, has retained the Spanish arrest warrant, which means they will be detained upon arrival in the country, court sources said.
The judge said the European warrant would complicate the overall probe into the region's leaders.
Some of them are still in Spain -- either in jail or out on bail -- and are facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
He said Belgium could reject some of the reasons for the warrant, meaning it could agree to the extradition of Puigdemont and the four others -- but with restrictions, and only for certain offences.
The unexpected decision comes after the Catalan election campaign kicked off, with Puigdemont speaking to supporters in Catalonia on Monday night via video link.