World Bulletin / News Desk
Axed Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont arrived Monday for an extradition hearing in Belgium as Spain seeks to have him sent back to face sedition charges over his region's independence drive.
A judge sitting behind closed doors in Brussels will hear from lawyers for Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, who all fled to Belgium in October despite a summons to appear in court in Spain, claiming they would not get a fair trial.
A police source said Puigdemont and the others had arrived for the hearing, which comes on the eve of the official start of campaigning for December 21 elections in Catalonia.
Madrid wants the polls to "restore normality" to the wealthy northeastern region, which declared independence unilaterally following a hotly disputed October 1 referendum.
Puigdemont's lawyer said at the weekend he will remain in Belgium until after the elections.
"No matter what, they will be (in Brussels) till at least December 21 and according to my calculations this could go on till mid-January," lawyer Jaume Alonso Cuevillas told Catalan radio Rac1, referring to Puigdemont and the four former ministers.
"I am convinced that no matter what happens they will have recourse to an appeal," the lawyer said.
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