Jailing of Catalan politicians could lead to backlash

Protesters wave Spanish and Catalan Senyera flag while holding a sign reading

The National Court has also been questioning the ousted Catalan parliament members - with former regional government spokesman Jordi Turull and minister for territorial affairs Josep Rull appearing there on Thursday.

'I have just heard from my client that the warrant has been issued for the president and four of his ministers who are in Belgium, ' lawyer Paul Bekaert told VRT.

Puigdemont said he went to Belgium to garner support from the European Union - not because he's seeking political asylum.

"The legitimate government of Catalonia has been sent to jail for its ideas and for having been faithful to the mandate approved by the parliament of Catalonia", he said.

"The fury with which the Spanish government has attacked a handsome European nation is outrageous and is threatening us all", Mr Puigdemont said, adding that Catalonia's independence is "no longer an internal affair" of Spain.

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A spokesperson for Puigdemont said he would remain in Brussels with the other four ministers.

All the members of the dismissed Catalan cabinet but one declined to answer questions from the state prosecutor and the High Court judge, who opened an investigation that could take several years before any potential trial.

The former Catalan ministers have been accused of sedition, rebellion and misusing public funds.

Under Spain's legal system, investigating judges can order the detention of suspects while a comprehensive probe, sometimes taking months, determines if charges should be brought.

Former ministers in the deposed Catalan government arrive at court. It was as yet unknown why their hearings were adjourned by the court, which deals with cases involving lawmakers.

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