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Ex-Catalan Leader Puigdemont Detained In Germany

Deposed leader of Catalonia's pro-independence party Carles Puigdemont photographed ahead of his lecture at the University of Helsinki, Finland on Friday. His lawyer said he was detained over the weekend after crossing into Germany.

Carles Puigdemont, who led Catalonia's independence push before slipping into Belgium to evade rebellion charges, was detained by German police Sunday as he crossed into that country from Denmark, according to a tweet from his lawyer.

Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas said Catalonia's former president was on his way back to Belgium from Finland, where he had been meeting with lawmakers, when police stopped him on a European arrest warrant.

Puigdemont faces up to 30 years prison time in Spain for heading an illegal independence referendum in October.

Violence erupted during the vote, "Horrible scenes," as NPR's Lauren Frayer reported from Barcelona at the time, "Police dragging voters out of polling stations, some by the hair."

Catalonia declared independence, but Madrid stepped in dissolving the regional government and Puigdemont fled to Belgium where he has been living with his family for the past five months.

His arrest Sunday caps a tense weekend in Catalonia after Spain's Supreme Court ruled Friday that 25 Catalan leaders should stand trial on secession-related charges, carrying sentences of up to three decades behind bars.

Five politicians who responded to a court summons found themselves jailed, reports The New York Times.

People took to the streets in Catalonia, sometimes clashing with police, in protests that carried on through the weekend.

The judge also issued a new international arrest warrant for Puigdemont Friday, making him a wanted man across Europe once again, after his prior extradition order was lifted in December. (A national arrest warrant has been in effect since November, meaning Puigdemont has not been free to step foot back on Spanish soil.)

Puigdemont was in Finland Friday when he learned Finnish police could be preparing to arrest him.

Finnish member of Parliament Mikko Kärnä, who had been meeting with Puigdemont, said Saturday that the deposed leader opted to leave the country for Belgium rather than turn himself over to Finnish police.

A Spanish police official told The Associated Press that its intelligence services worked with German police to orchestrate Puigdemont's arrest.

Like Puigdemont, other politicians facing charges have left Spain to live in self-exile.

Catalan parliament member and lawyer Marta Rovira fled to Switzerland rather than appear in court Friday, according to the Times. She said in an open letter Friday, "Exile will be a tough road, but it is the only way I have to recover my political voice."

Friday's indictment is another major snag for Catalonia's long-running secessionist movement, as much of its political elite is facing decades behind bars.

It is up to Germany as to whether Puigdemont will be extradited.

NPR's Lauren Frayer contributed to this report

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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