23rd September 2020
Lluís Puig
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Belgian court rejects extradition of former Catalan minister Lluís Puig

A third attempt by Spain to extradite one of the former Catalan independence leaders, Lluís Puig, was blocked on Friday, after being denied by a court in Belgium.

Lluís Puig moved to Brussels in November 2017 and faces possible extradition back to Spain for his role in the 1 October 2017 Catalan referendum, for which he was charged with misuse of public funds and disobedience.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former Catalan minister Toni Comín are also in Belgium and had also fought extradition requests by Spain. They have since been elected as MEPs and there is an on-going legal battle regarding their immunity status.

ALSO READ (16/1/20): EU Parliament to consider immunity status for Puigdemont, Comín

Clara Ponsatí, the former Catalan education minister who was also facing extradition from Scotland, also became an MEP in February.

ALSO READ (6/2/20): Clara Ponsatí joins Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín as an MEP

It was the third time that Lluís Puig had faced an extradition request by Spain over his role in the 2017 independence bid, with the first being withdrawn by the Spanish Supreme Court in December 2017, and the second rejected by Belgium due to ‘procedural defects’ and ‘irregularities’.

Lluís Puig
Lluís Puig (centre), with Carles Puigdemont (right), Clara Ponsatí, Toni Comín and also Meritxell Serret. (Twitter / @LluisPuigGordi)

On Friday, a Belgian court ruled that the Spanish Supreme Court does not have the authority to order Puig’s extradition. Belgium’s public prosecutor has already announced that it will be appealing the court’s decision.

Click here for all our reports on European Arrest Warrants (EAWs)

On Friday, Puig’s lawyer Simon Bekaert tweeted ‘Victory’ to the news of the Belgian court’s decision. ‘After almost three years of legal battle, Belgian Court rejects EAW and rules no extradition of Lluis Puig to Spain. Justice has been served. Moreover the motivation is an important precedent: the Spanish supreme Court is not the competent authority.’

Former Catalan president Puigdemont was also quick to react to the news concerning the man who was his culture minister.

‘We’ve denounced this from the beginning and the UN’s working group on human rights said it too. Now the Belgian justice system confirms the same thing: the Supreme Court does not have the authority to go after us and judge us. Fundamental rights are not respected in the Kingdom of Spain. Congratulations Lluís Puig Gordi,’ Puigdemont tweeted.

ALSO READ (1/8/20): Seven of nine jailed Catalan leaders have ‘low category’ prison status revoked

Current Catalan president Quim Torra, speaking in the Catalan Parliament on Friday, said: ‘If the Supreme Court does not have the authority to try Puig, it doesn’t have the authority to try any of the others either.’

Meanwhile, the Ciudadanos (Cs) party – the main opposition group in the Catalan Parliament – reacted by stating their ‘respect’ for all legal rulings, but also stressing the ‘urgency’ with which the European Arrest Warrants system must be reformed to make it ‘more efficient’.

LSO READ: UN working group calls for release of four more jailed Catalan politicians

ALSO READ: Spain warns Belgium it will ‘take decisions’ if Puigdemont not extradited

ALSO READ: Catalan Trial verdict: full details of each sentence

Click here for all our previous reports on the Catalan Trial, verdicts and sentencing

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