Death toll due to heavy rains in Chennai at 8

Catalonia's political leader carles Puigdemont

Madrid:A Spanish judge issued an European Union arrest warrant for Catalonia's deposed separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, a day after he failed to appear for questioning over his role in the region's tumultuous independence drive.

Carmen Lamela, a judge in Spain's National Court, on Friday asked Belgium's prosecutor's office to arrest Puidgemont and four ministers in the dissolved Catalan government who ignored a court order to appear before a judge on Thursday, reports CNN.

Brussels prosecutors said in a statement issued Saturday that their federal Belgian counterparts gave them the warrants for Puigdemont and four of his associates due to links the five politicians from Catalonia have to Brussels.

"We will study it, and put it in the hands of an investigating judge", prosecutors' spokesman Eric Van Der Sijpt told The Associated Press.

A spokeswoman for the High Court could not confirm the warrant had been issued.

"We consider ourselves a legitimate government", Puigdemont told Belgian state television RTBF on Friday.

He tweeted the government's "furious clamour" had sent the officials to jail.

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The detention of the secessionist leaders and Puigdemont's journey to Belgium have given a new boost to the secessionist camp after cracks had appeared in its ranks.

Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Omnium Cultural have spearheaded the civil society efforts to achieve secession for the northeastern region.

Another six Catalan leaders are due to testify on November 9 on the same charges.

Nine other leaders of the Catalan region were taken into custody, one of whom, Santi Vila, has been released on bail for €50,000.

In a speech broadcast late on Thursday by Catalan public TV3, Mr Puigdemont called on Catalans to protest against the Spanish authorities "without violence, peacefully and with respect for everybody's opinions".

But the longer Mr Puigdemont can delay his arrest and extradition, the greater chance he has of being a factor in the December 21 election that Spanish authorities have called as part of their temporary takeover of running the rebellious region.

In the Basque city of Bilbao in northern Spain, several thousand people marched Saturday despite the rain to protest the intervention of the Spanish government in Catalonia's self-rule. He also said that the snap election will not "be neutral, independent, normal", if the Catalan leadership is in jail.

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