Spanish prosecutors eye Swiss arrest of Catalan fugitive

MADRID (AP) — Spanish prosecutors said Thursday they have asked the government and Interpol to assess whether Carles Puigdemont, the fugitive ex-president of Spain’s restive Catalonia region, can be arrested and extradited during his private visit to Switzerland this weekend.

The office of Spain’s state prosecutor said in a statement it is also asking the Supreme Court, which is considering charges of sedition and rebellion against Puigdemont, to consider revoking his passport.

Puigdemont has been living since last November in Brussels, where he fled to avoid arrest as part of a Spanish investigation into his role in recent Catalan attempts to break away from Spain.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry says Puigdemont is due in Geneva on Sunday after accepting an invitation from the International Film Festival and the Forum on Human Rights. Swiss authorities say the issue of Catalan independence is “an internal matter for Spain” and that Puigdemont is free to travel to Switzerland under Schengen-zone rules, which permits visa-free travel for many Europeans.

Also Thursday, police in Barcelona searched the seat of the Catalan regional government as part of a widening probe into the funding of last year’s banned Catalan referendum on independence.

A Civil Guard spokesman said agents also arrested a regional official in charge of the Catalan government’s public campaigns, after raiding his office and home in the early hours. The official spoke anonymously in line with internal rules.

The Civil Guard, acting on the order of a judge, also searched the office of a pro-independence activist group, Omnium Cultural, whose leader was preventively jailed last year on preliminary charges of hampering police work to halt the Oct. 1 vote.

The region’s separatist leaders unsuccessfully declared independence from Spain in October in violation of the nation’s Constitution. Polls show Catalans are equally divided on the secession issue.

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