Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been detained by German police acting on a European arrest warrant for his return to Spain. The ex-leader is wanted for sedition and rebellion after his separatist region of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence in October following what Madrid calls an illegal referendum. While Puigdemont has been living in Brussels in self-imposed exile since then, the formal warrant for his arrest was only drawn up in December and just reissued Friday. It comes along with those of 25 other Catalan leaders, sparking massive protests in Barcelona.
Puigdemont was in Helsinki, Finland at the time it was announced, but evaded authorities by slipping out of the country early. The activist was attempting to return to Belgium Sunday when he was caught crossing the Danish border into northern Germany. His warrant is one of many legal setbacks to the independence movement, which has lost momentum in recent months due to the arrests of many top activists. It has the potential to permanently extradite Puigdemont and kill the movement, which has been hoping for but has yet to receive international backing from his exile.