Catalonia's sacked leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his deputies can now heave a little sigh of relief.

The European arrest warrant issued against them has been dropped, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.

Puigdemont and his four deputies had fled to Belgium after the regional parliament declared unilateral independence.

In a ruling, Judge Pablo Llarena decided to withdraw the warrant as the five "appear to have shown their intention to return to Spain" to take part in regional elections on December 21.

But Llarena, who is in charge of the case, has retained the Spanish arrest warrant, which means they will be detained upon arrival in the country, court sources said.

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The judge said the European warrant would complicate the overall probe into the region's leaders.

Some of them are still in Spain either in jail or out on bail and are facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

He said Belgium could reject some of the reasons for the warrant, meaning it could agree to the extradition of Puigdemont and the four others but with restrictions, and only for certain offences.

This in turn would stop Spain from investigating the restricted offences, thereby creating inequalities with those already held in Spain who would be probed on the full charges, Llarena argued.

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