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In Belgium Government may probe whether Spain spied on Catalan leader

Belgian authorities faced calls Wednesday to investigate whether the Spanish secret services monitored former Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont in Belgium without telling Brussels.

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Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a message via a video call from Germany during a Junts per Catalonia (Together for Catalonia) party meeting at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on May 11, 2018 play

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a message via a video call from Germany during a Junts per Catalonia (Together for Catalonia) party meeting at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on May 11, 2018

(AFP/File)

Belgian authorities faced calls Wednesday to investigate whether the Spanish secret services monitored former Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont in Belgium without telling Brussels.

In late March, after Puigdemont's arrest in Germany following his five months of exile in Belgium, several local media reported that a GPS tracking beacon had been found earlier under the Catalan leader's car.

Guy Rapaille, who heads Belgium's intelligence service Comite R, said it is "not impossible" that an investigation may be opened "in order to know what Belgium knew" of operations to track Puigdemont.

"What I can already say is that the Belgians did not take part in it. Normally, they should have been put in the loop," Rapaille was quoted as saying by Le Soir newspaper.

Members of the Belgian parliament have asked Comite R to investigate the reports Puigdemont was tracked.

"I want to know if the Spanish security services intervened in our territory," MP Peter Buysrogge was quoted as saying.

"And if that is the case, was State Security informed of this operation?" asked the deputy from the Flemish nationalist party N-VA.

Rapaille confirmed reports there had been a "surge" in activity by foreign intelligence services in Belgium, including those of Turkey and Rwanda suspected of monitoring their own citizens.

Puigdemont, who first fled to Belgium last October, was detained in Germany in March after Spain issued a European arrest warrant against him.

Madrid wants to extradite him to Spain to try him on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds for staging an independence referendum in Catalonia in October even though the courts had ruled it unconstitutional.

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