Spain steps up pressure on Catalan separatists, requests Finnish help

Barcelona/Helsinki - The Catalan crisis intensified Saturday as the regional parliament in Barcelona suspended a presidential election and Spanish authorities renewed requests for the arrests of exiled leaders.

Finnish police said Saturday they would act on a Spanish request to detain the exiled former Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, but were unaware of his whereabouts.
Puigdemont, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium, had been expected to leave the Nordic country on Saturday.
In a brief statement, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Spain has "provided the requested information" for the international search warrant.
Puigdemont's whereabouts were "unknown," police said.
Hannu Kautto of the NBI declined to comment "how actively" police would search for Puigdemont, daily Ilta Sanomat reported.
Interior Minister Kai Mykkanen later told public brodcaster YLE that the Finnish police were obliged to act as "Spain has supplemented the documents regarding the extradition request."
If Puigdemont is detained, the Justice Ministry would have to review a possible extradition, he added.
Puigdemont attended meetings at the Finnish parliament on Thursday and gave a talk Friday at Helsinki University.
One of his hosts, Finnish Member of Parliament Mikko Karna, said he was unaware of Puigdemont's whereabouts and that the official programme ended Friday.
"He has not done anything violent and the charges of rebellion are totally preposterous," Karna told dpa.
The Spanish Supreme Court Friday issued fresh arrest warrants against Puigdemont and six other Catalan politicians who currently are abroad.
Catalan presidential candidate Jordi Turull was Friday placed in pretrial detention on charges of rebellion and sedition.
The regional parliament in Barcelona halted a second vote to elect Turull, 51, as Catalan president on Saturday after his detention.
Turull did not achieve the required absolute majority in an initial vote during an emergency session of parliament called for Thursday evening to beat the detention order.
The Constitutional Court in Madrid ruled earlier that a presidential candidate must be present in parliament for the vote in order to take up the post.
Catalan Parliamentary President Roger Torrent pledged to defy the central government in Madrid. "I will not rest until I see you free," he said on Saturday in parliament, addressing his arrested colleagues.
Following the reaffirmation of the charges, protests and riots broke out in Barcelona, in which about twenty people were injured.
The charges of rebellion were linked to backing the region's bid to secede from Spain in October last year.
Puigdemont and other exiled Catalan leaders have travelled to other countries in Europe despite efforts by Spain to seek their extradition.

Saturday, March 24th 2018

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