Catalan independence: European arrest warrants withdrawn for Carles Puigdemont and aides

European arrest warrants for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his former cabinet have been withdrawn by a Spanish judge.

The group were fighting extradition from Belgium to Spain, where they face rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges that can be punished with decades in prison under the country's criminal laws.

Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet were unseated in late October and fled the country after regional politicians passed a declaration of independence that Spanish authorities deemed illegal.

Election campaigning began on Tuesday. Credit: AP

On Tuesday, a judge said individual warrants do not apply to a crime committed by them as part of a wider group and that the probed politicians have shown their "intention to return to Spain" in order to run for elections in Catalonia.

The Spanish government called the early elections in a bid to find a democratic way out of the nation's worst crisis in nearly four decades.

Mr Puigdemont is leading his party's campaign for the December 21 elections.

Voters are choosing regional representatives and top government officials to replace those removed by the national government in October.

Campaigning began on Tuesday, with polls predicting a close race between the pro and anti-independence camps.