Carles Puigdemont handed himself in after Spain issued a new warrant for his arrest following the sentencing of 12 of his former colleagues. Thousands gathered in Barcelona, Spain on Friday to protest the jailing of the separatist Catalan leaders.

Former Catalan premier currently in exile Carles Puigdemont attends the event 'Wat met Europa' (What with Europe), at the Factory Building in Roeselare, Belgium on October 15, 2019.
Former Catalan premier currently in exile Carles Puigdemont attends the event 'Wat met Europa' (What with Europe), at the Factory Building in Roeselare, Belgium on October 15, 2019. (AFP)

Fugitive former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has handed himself in to Belgian justice authorities after Spain issued a new warrant for his arrest following the sentencing of 12 of his former colleagues.

Puigdemont's office said on Friday that he, "in the company of his lawyers, voluntarily appeared before Belgian authorities" in relation to the arrest warrant.

It said that Puigdemont rejects the warrant and opposes any attempt to send him back to Spain.

It was not immediately clear whether he is still being questioned or held.

Puigdemont and a number of his associates fled to Belgium in October 2017 after they were summoned to court over the secessionist push he led and the holding of an independence referendum that the Spanish government said was illegal.

On Monday, Puigdemont called on all Catalans to unite in the "face of injustice" after Spain's Supreme Court convicted 12 former Catalan politicians and activists for their roles in the secession movement of 2017 and issued an international arrest warrant against Puigdemont.

"I appeal to all Catalans whether they support or oppose independence that above all they value freedom and democracy and unite under a single banner and say 'enough'," he said.

He also condemned the silence of the European Union.

Fifth day of protests

Earlier in the day, Catalan separatists blocked traffic on two routes connecting Spain and France, on the fifth day of protests over the jailing of nine of their leaders, the transport ministry said Friday.

It said the demonstrators cut the AP7 motorway at La Jonquera near the city of Gerona in eastern Spain as well as the N-II road near the border.

The action followed a fourth night of violence in Barcelona, in which the separatists burned barricades and clashed with police.

Hundreds of young protesters chanting "independence" set fire to improvised roadblocks in the centre of the city late Thursday, tossing Molotov cocktails at police, who responded by firing foam and anti-riot rounds.

The separatists have called a general strike and a mass rally on Friday against the Supreme Court's decision to jail nine of the separatist leaders for their role in a referendum banned by Madrid and a short-lived declaration of independence.

The court's decision has thrust the Catalan dispute to the heart of the political debate ahead of Spain's November 10 general election, its fourth in as many years.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies