Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a failed separation bid for the northeastern region of 2017, was arrested Thursday in Sardinia, Italy, his lawyer said.
Puigdemont, who lives in Belgium and now has a seat in the European Parliament, has fought for extradition to Spain, accusing him and other Catalan independence leaders of rebellion.
Lawyer Gonzalo Boye said Puigdemont was detained when he arrived in Sardinia, where he was to attend an event this weekend.
The circumstances in which Puigdemont was taken into custody were not immediately clear. Boye wrote on Twitter that the former regional president was arrested under a European arrest warrant from 2019, even though it had been suspended.
Police at the airport in northern Sardinia did not answer phone calls Thursday night, while police in the city of Alghero said they were not aware of his arrest.
The European Parliament voted in March to lift the immunity of Puigdemont and two of his staff. In July, the three EU legislators failed to restore their immunity after the European Union’s General Court ruled that they did not show that they were at risk of being arrested.
Sardinian media reported earlier this week that he would attend an event in Alghero on Sunday, so his presence on the Mediterranean island was expected. Sardinian media had also reported that Puigdemont was invited by a Sardinian pro-separatist group.
Puigdemont’s office said in a statement that he had traveled to Alghero from Brussels to attend a folklore festival where he was arrested on arrival by Italian police. On Friday, Puigdemont will appear before a judge in the city of Sassari who would decide whether he should be released, the statement said.
Puigdemont and a number of his separatist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, for fear of arrest after holding a referendum on independence for Catalonia that the Spanish courts and government said were illegal.
Nine Catalan separatists received prison sentences for their role in the 2017 referendum, which ranged from nine to 13 years. They were pardoned in July.