A Belgian judge has granted Catalan ex-leader Carles Puigdemont conditional release. Spain issued an international arrest warrant for him over his role in the region's independence push. Lucy Fielder reports.
The lawyer for the sacked Catalan leader says he's been freed. A Belgian judge granting conditional release for Carles Puigdemont and four of his former councillors. They'll appear in court within 15 days. Puigdemont turned himself in to police in Belgium on Sunday after Spain issued a European arrest warrant. Madrid wants the man who has become the face of Catalonia's independence drive, and his associates, for rebellion and misuse of public funds. He's now barred from leaving Belgium without a judge's consent. He travelled there more than a week ago. Puigdemont was the autonomous region's leader when it declared independence in late October. Spain responded by dismissing him and his cabinet, seizing direct control of the region and calling a snap election. Opinion polls have varied - but two on Sunday suggest pro-independence parties would, together, win the December vote, and with a high turnout. But they could fall short of the majority they'd need to revive the secession campaign. Spain's crackdown could be boosting support. "Freedom," they chant, at this demonstration in Barcelona, calling for the release of eight more Catalan leaders jailed last week pending an investigation. Puigdemont has called for a united front for secession, and his party says he'll still be leading it in the coming campaign.