Catalan separatists took to the streets of Barcelona on Friday after their former leader Carles Puigdemont was arrested by Italian police in Sardinia.
Hundreds gathered outside the Italian consulate, some holding up banners baring the face ex-Catalan leader’s face.
Mr Puigdemont fled Spain after a failed secession bid for the northeastern region in 2017. He now lives in Belgium and now holds a seat in the European Parliament, and has been fighting extradition to Spain amid accusations of sedition against him and other Catalan independence leaders.
His lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, said Mr Puigdemont was detained on Thursday when he arrived in Sardinia, where he was due to attend an event this weekend.
“Mr Puigdemont must submit to the action of the courts, exactly like any other citizen,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office said in a statement.
Spain has accused Mr Puigdemont of sedition, claiming he helped organise a 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by Spanish courts.
The Catalan leader was detained by Italian border police at Alghero airport as he arrived on the island of Sardinia on Thursday evening.
He was due to attend an Italian court on Friday morning, though it is unclear whether the judge will decide whether he should be extradited, Italian news wire ANSA reported.
“We believe that the judicial authorities will release Puigdemont. This is the fourth time this has happened,” his Mr Boyer told Cadena Ser radio.
In March, the European Parliament stripped Mr Puigdemont of the immunity he enjoyed as a member since 2019.
Mr Puigdemont was subject to a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, which is seeking his extradition over his role in the independence bid.
The referendum brought on Spain's biggest political crisis in decades and was followed by a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament in October 2017, which prompted the central government to impose direct rule from Madrid and authorities to arrest separatist leaders.