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Deposed Catalan leader hands himself into Belgian police

Carles Puigdemont's party say they want sacked leader to stand for election PDeCAT spokeswoman ..

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  • Carles Puigdemont's party say they want sacked leader to stand for election
  • PDeCAT spokeswoman said: 'We want president Puigdemont to lead offensive'
  • Puigdemont and four of his former ministers have fled to Belgium this past week
  • The sacked leader said he would fully cooperate with the Belgian justice system

By Gareth Davies For Mailonline

Published: 08:07 EST, 5 November 2017 | Updated: 08:34 EST, 5 November 2017

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

Sacked Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont has turned himself in to Belgian police after Spain issued an arrest warrant for him and four ex-ministers.

Belgian prosecutors, who have a European arrest warrant from Spain for Puigdemont and four of his associates, said those wanted handed themselves in this morning and that their cases will be heard by judge in Brussels this afternoon.

A spokesman for the Brussels' prosecutor's office, Gilles Dejemeppe, said the five presented themselves to federal police and have been in custody since 9am local time.

He said that they have not been arrested and that Mr Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers would be heard by an investigative judge on Sunday afternoon.

The judge will have to decide what the next steps are within 24 hours. They could vary from arrest and imprisonment to conditional release.

A Spanish National Court judge issued warrants for the five separatist politicians on suspicion of five crimes, including rebellion and embezzlement, on Friday, a day after the same judge sent another eight former Catalan Cabinet members to jail without bail while her investigation continues.

A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

Puigdemont wrote in Dutch in his Twitter account on Saturday that he is 'prepared to fully cooperate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain'.

Belgian state prosecutors were examining international arrest warrants issued by Spain for the ousted leader of Catalonia and other members of his disbanded Cabinet.

Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers fled to Belgium this past week after being removed from power by Spanish authorities as part of an extraordinary crackdown to impede the region's illegal declaration of independence.

Federal prosecutors in Belgium said on Saturday that they were studying the warrants and that they had shared them with city counterparts in Brussels.

Spokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe gives a press briefing in Brussels, BelgiumSpokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium

Spokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium

General Coordinator of the Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) Marta Pascal speaks during the National Council meeting held to define the party's position regarding Catalan regional elections on 21 December in Barcelona, SpainGeneral Coordinator of the Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) Marta Pascal speaks during the National Council meeting held to define the party's position regarding Catalan regional elections on 21 December in Barcelona, Spain

General Coordinator of the Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) Marta Pascal speaks during the National Council meeting held to define the party's position regarding Catalan regional elections on 21 December in Barcelona, Spain

pokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe (centre) gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium, after Carles Puigdemont turned himself inpokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe (centre) gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium, after Carles Puigdemont turned himself in

pokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe (centre) gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium, after Carles Puigdemont turned himself in

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of 'the legitimate government of Catalonia', after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leaders to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region's independence push, in Brussels, BelgiumSacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of 'the legitimate government of Catalonia', after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leaders to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region's independence push, in Brussels, Belgium

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of 'the legitimate government of Catalonia', after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leaders to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region's independence push, in Brussels, Belgium

Independence supporters protest against the judge order on Catalan leaders to be held in custody in jail pending trial on November 2, 2017 in Barcelona, SpainIndependence supporters protest against the judge order on Catalan leaders to be held in custody in jail pending trial on November 2, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain

Independence supporters protest against the judge order on Catalan leaders to be held in custody in jail pending trial on November 2, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain

The separatist party of deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is facing an arrest warrant issued by Spain, said Sunday they wanted him as candidate for regional elections on December 21.

PDeCAT spokeswoman Marta Pascal told party members: 'We want president Puigdemont to be the person who leads the big offensive we will carry out on the 21st at the polls.'

However, Puigdemont's lawyer in Brussels had previously said that his client plans to fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

Legal experts estimate that the process from arrest to extradition, including appeals, could take as long as two months before Puigdemont would be sent back to Spain.

That delay could give Puigdemont time to influence, and even participate from afar, in the snap regional election called by Spain's government for Catalonia on December 21.

While Puigdemont remains absconded in Europe's capital, back in northeastern Spain political forces are hurriedly jockeying for position to start a campaign that promises to be as bitter as it is decisive to Spain's worst institutional crisis in nearly four decades.

While pro-union parties try to rally support to win back control of the regional parliament in Barcelona, pro-secession parties are debating whether or not to form one grand coalition for the upcoming ballot.

Parties have until Tuesday to register as coalitions or they must run separately. Puigdemont weighed in on the debate Saturday, backing his center-right Democratic Party of Catalonia's push to form one pro-secession bloc.

Catalan ex-regional president Artur Mas, the first leader to harness the political momentum for secession, told Catalan public television on Sunday that he backed a fusion of parties for the December vote.

But, he said, the main goals must be to recover the self-rule of the region and the release of the jailed separatists, not another immediate attempt to culminate the independence drive.

'Under these exceptional circumstances that our country is going through, don't we have to substitute the normal and logical competition for the cooperation we all need?' Mas said.

'If we add the issue of independence, we won't get as many people to support us.'

The separatist majority of Catalonia's Parliament ignored repeated warnings from Spanish authorities and voted in favor of a declaration of independence on October 27.

The next day, Spain's central government used extraordinary constitutional powers to fire Catalonia's government, take charge of its administrations, dissolve its regional parliament and call a regional election.

Spain's Constitution says the nation is 'indivisible' and that all matters of national sovereignty pertain to the country's parliament.

In all, Spanish prosecutors are investigating 20 regional politicians for rebellion and other crimes that could be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Another two leaders of pro-secession grassroots groups are also in jail while an investigation continues into suspicion of sedition.

Hundreds of pro-secession Catalans gathered in town squares across the region Sunday to put up posters in support of independence and to demand the release of the jailed separatists.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao despite the rain to support Catalonia Thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao despite the rain to support Catalonia 

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao despite the rain to support Catalonia

Demonstrators carrying both Basque and Catalan flags walked side by side in the rainDemonstrators carrying both Basque and Catalan flags walked side by side in the rain

Demonstrators carrying both Basque and Catalan flags walked side by side in the rain

The demonstrators marched peacefully through the centre of the city despite the heavy rainThe demonstrators marched peacefully through the centre of the city despite the heavy rain

The demonstrators marched peacefully through the centre of the city despite the heavy rain

Demonstrators in Barcelona described the jailed Catalonian ministers as 'political prisoners' Demonstrators in Barcelona described the jailed Catalonian ministers as 'political prisoners' 

Demonstrators in Barcelona described the jailed Catalonian ministers as 'political prisoners'

Trade unionists joined the demonstration in Bilbao which criticised Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which gave Madrid power to take over the Catalonian institutionsTrade unionists joined the demonstration in Bilbao which criticised Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which gave Madrid power to take over the Catalonian institutions

Trade unionists joined the demonstration in Bilbao which criticised Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which gave Madrid power to take over the Catalonian institutions

'People came today because we want to send a message to Europe that even if our president is still in Brussels and all our government now is in Madrid jailed, that the independence movement still didn't finish and people are still striving to get independence in a peaceful and democratic way,' said 24-year-old protester Adria Ballester in Barcelona.

The grassroots group Catalan National Assembly has also called for a strike on Wednesday and a public protest on Saturday.

Fueled by questions of cultural identity and economic malaise, secessionist sentiment has skyrocketed to reach roughly half of the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia, a prosperous region that is proud of its Catalan language spoken along with Spanish.

Puigdemont and his fellow separatists claim that an illegal referendum on secession held on October 1 that polled 43 percent of the electorate and failed to meet international standards gives them a mandate for independence.

Barcelona fans unfurled a banner calling for justice at the Camp Nou during last night's gameBarcelona fans unfurled a banner calling for justice at the Camp Nou during last night's game

Barcelona fans unfurled a banner calling for justice at the Camp Nou during last night's game

Demonstrators said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was anti-democraticDemonstrators said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was anti-democratic

Demonstrators said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was anti-democratic

Spain faces various groups who want various forms of independence from Madrid

SPAIN'S OTHER REBEL REGIONS

BASQUE REGION

The Basque people have their own language and culture. They faced serious repression under General Franco's fascist dictatorship and began subversive acts against the state in the late 1950s, founding a terrorist organisation ETA.

ETA's first known victim was a secret police chief in San Sebastian in 1968 and its last a French policemen shot in 2010.

The group's first revolutionary gesture was to fly the banned 'ikurrina', the red and green Basque flag, before the campaign escalated in the 1960s into violence that was brutally reciprocated by the Franco regime.

In 1973, ETA targeted Franco's heir apparent Luis Carrero Blanco by digging a tunnel under the road that he drove down daily to attend Mass. They packed the tunnel with explosives and blasted Blanco's car over a five-storey building.

The assassination changed the course of Spanish history, as the removal of Franco's successor led to the exiled king reclaiming the throne and a shift to a constitutional monarchy.

Attacks including a 1987 car bomb at a Barcelona supermarket, which killed 21 including a pregnant woman and two children, horrified Spaniards and drew international outrage.

GALICIAN REGION

Galica is found along Spain's north west Atlantic coast and has a long history, identity and many who want to separate from Madrid.

The region has been both Spanish and Portuguese, while some in the area claim Celtic heritage.

In the region, some people are pressing for independence, while others want to rejoin Portugal.

CATALAN COUNTRIES

Catalonia is the largest part of the Catalan countries, which also include the Balearic Islands as well as the Valencia region.

Jordi Graupera, a researcher at Princeton University told Al Jazeera: 'These territories have regionalist parties that demand, like Catalonia years ago, better autonomy and respect for cultural diversity.'

The regional government on the Balaeric Islands wants to remain part of Spain while the leadership in Valencia is yet to comment.

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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