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Catch Me If You Can: Ex-Catalan Head Flees Finland Amid Issued Arrest Warrant

© REUTERS / Lehtikuva/Markku UlanderPro-independence Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont lectures at the University of Helsinki, Finland March 23, 2018
Pro-independence Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont lectures at the University of Helsinki, Finland March 23, 2018 - Sputnik International
Earlier this week, Spain issued a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Puigdemont, who has been in exile since the October 2017 independence referendum in Spain.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has left Finland before the country's police could arrest him in line with an arrest warrant issued by Spain, Puigdemont's lawyer Jaume Alonso Cuevillas said Saturday.

"I confirm that President Puigdemont is no longer in Finland," Cuevillas said Saturday, without specifying the former leader's location.

Finnish lawmaker Mikko Karna, who was one of those, who invited the former Catalan leader to visit Finland, also confirmed the statement, saying that Carles Puigdemont departed from Finland yesterday evening by unknown means to Belgium." 

Puigdemont had been on a visit to Finland since Thursday at the invitation of several Finnish lawmakers.

The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation said the day before that it had received a request from Spain to extradite the former Catalan head. The statement was made a day after Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena issued the European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and a number of other politicians from the region.

READ MORE: Finnish Police Receive Request for Extradition of Ex-Catalan Head Puigdemont

At the same time, Puigdemont said earlier in the week that he was ready for talks with the central government, and believed that his return would be evidence of the normalization of politics and democracy in Spain.

Pro-independence demonstrators wear and hold up masks depicting former regional president Carles Puigdemont during a protest outside the regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, January 30, 2018 - Sputnik International
Puigdemont's Supporters Break Through Police Barricade to Catalan Parliament
On October 1, 2017, Catalonia held a referendum on the region's independence from Spain. The vast majority of voters backed secession. The plebiscite was not, however, recognized by Madrid, which subsequently imposed direct rule over the autonomous region and dismissed its government.

Spanish authorities have opened a criminal case against 30 Catalan politicians and officials, arresting four of them, while Puigdemont, as well as several advisers of the dissolved Catalan government, fled Spain before the trial.

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