Deposed Catalan leader 'demands' release of ministers

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On Monday, Spain's state prosecutor accused Mr Puigdemont of rebellion and sedition for organising the independence referendum held on 1 October.

Cracks have appeared within the pro-independence coalition of centre-right and far-left parties as well as inside Puigdemont's own PdeCat (Democratic Catalan Party) where some of his allies are now pushing for a negotiated solution with the central government.

"It is better to take some distance", Paul Bekaert told Reuters, adding that "the climate is not good".

Puigdemont said he went to Belgium to garner support from the European Union - not because he's seeking political asylum. In the text, the dismissed regional ministers are called "the legitimate government of Catalonia".

An arrest warrant would make it virtually impossible for Mr Puigdemont to stand in a snap election, called for 21 December, after the Catalonian government was dissolved by Spain in light of the vote for independence.

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In its November report, the Bank of Spain said that in the worst case scenario, the political uncertainty caused by an illegal secessionist drive could reduce Spanish economic growth by 2.5 percentage points between end-2017 and 2019.

The six had been summoned to court for questioning by a judge.

In response to Catalonia declaring independence weeks later, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stripped the region of its autonomy and unseated its legislators.

Former ministers in the deposed Catalan government arrive at court. With Puigdemont and four others in Belgium, only 15 turned up.

A lawyer for several of the jailed Catalan leaders said they would appeal against the judge's decision.

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