European MEP and former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has been arrested in Italy.

Mr Puigdemont was in exile in Belgium since 2017 after an attempt by the region to gain independence through a referendum that Spain ruled was unconstitutional.

"President Puigdemont was arrested on his arrival in Sardinia, where he was travelling in his capacity as MEP," his lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, wrote on Twitter, adding that the arrest was made on the basis of a warrant issued in October 2019.

The Catalan leader was arrested in Alghero, his chief of staff, Josep Lluis Alay, wrote on Twitter.

"At his arrival at Alghero airport, he was arrested by police at the Italian border. Tomorrow, he'll appear before the judges of the court of appeal of Sassari, who will decide whether to let him go or extradite him," Mr Alay said.

The European Parliament lifted the immunity of Mr Puigdemont and two other pro-independent MEPs in March, a decision that was subsequently upheld at the end of July by the EU's General Court.

Mr Puigdemont, along with former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition following an attempt by the Catalan region to gain independence through a referendum that Madrid ruled was unconstitutional.

At the end of June, Madrid pardoned nine other jailed Catalan separatists behind the failed 2017 independence bid and released them from long prison sentences.