Spain's top court rejects arrest warrant for Catalonia leader Puigdemont
Former leader is in Denmark for 1st trip outside Belgium since fleeing after independence declaration
Spain's Supreme Court on Monday rejected the state prosecutor's demand to reactivate a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
Puigdemont, who is in Denmark to give a speech, potentially faces decades of jail in Spain for leading Catalonia's independence drive.
The decision to reactivate the arrest warrant was postponed until the Catalan parliament is restored to normal activity, the court said in a statement.
The decision came after new Catalan parliament Speaker Roger Torrent said on Monday that Puigdemont's name would be the first candidate whose name will be put to a vote in parliament to be the region's president.
Spain issued a warrant for Puigdemont's arrest in November, but withdrew it after a month amid fears that Brussels would send him back, but restrict the crimes he could be tried for.
The Spanish government says Puigdemont cannot be elected Catalonia president again, or rule the region, because he is in self-imposed exile in Belgium and would not be physically present for the vote. His supporters say modern technology would allow him to rule remotely.
Puigdemont arrived in the Danish capital of Copenhagen on Monday to talk at a university there and meet with Danish legislators.
Consensus choice to lead again
It is his first trip outside of Belgium since he left Spain, dodging a judicial investigation into an illegal — and unsuccessful — independence declaration in late October, which followed a referendum held earlier in the month backing secession.
Puigdemont fled to Brussels shortly after he declared Catalonia's independence, to avoid a Spanish probe for his role in what Spain deemed to be an illegal secession bid.
While separatist parties had already said Puigdemont was their candidate, Torrent's announcement makes it official.
Torrent said Puigdemont is the only candidate with enough backing to attempt a government following regional elections last month. Torrent said he has written asking Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to meet and talk about the "abnormal situation" in Catalonia.
Puigdemont's candidacy will be voted on no later than Jan 31.
With files from The Associated Press