Belgian decide weighs extradition bid for Catalan ex-leader

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BRUSSELS: A Belgian court docket will on Friday contemplate whether or not to ship axed Catalan separatist chief Carles Puigdemont again to Spain to face costs of insurrection and sedition over his area’s independence drive.

Madrid issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and 4 of his former ministers after they fled to Brussels final month and ignored a summons to seem earlier than a Spanish decide, claiming they’d not get a good trial.

A decide in Brussels will hear arguments behind closed doorways from prosecutors and attorneys for the Catalan separatists over Spain’s extradition request within the first spherical of what may turn into a protracted courtroom battle, with each side anticipated to attraction in the event that they lose.

This may go away Puigdemont and his cadres nonetheless in Belgium when Catalonia goes to the polls on Dec 21 for an election ordered by Madrid to “restore normality” to the rich northeastern area.

“We are going to ask the Belgian judge to respect fundamental EU rights,” Michele Hirsch, a lawyer for 2 of the ex-ministers informed AFP.

“The act of organising a referendum is not a matter for criminal law. It is clearly a political opinion that is being targeted and the peaceful and democratic execution of a series of events linked to that opinion.”

‘Democracy will prevail’

The listening to is the newest act in Spain’s greatest political disaster in a long time, sparked by a banned Oct 1 referendum that the Catalan parliament then used as a mandate to declare independence.

Madrid in response dissolved the regional meeting and sacked the Catalan government, and eight former ministers are at present behind bars in Spain on costs of sedition, insurrection and misuse of public funds.

The 5 who fled to Brussels went to a Belgian police station on Nov 5 to reply the warrant and had been freed that night after hours of questioning, provided that they agreed to not go away Belgium.

Under Belgian legislation a choice on a European arrest warrant – introduced in by the EU to hurry up the once-lengthy extradition course of within the bloc – needs to be made inside 60 days.

The case will likely be heard by a Dutch-speaking decide – defendants in linguistically divided Belgium have the choice to decide on which language the decide listening to their case speaks, and the Catalans have received help from Dutch-speaking Flemish separatists in Belgium.

The decide is anticipated to provide an preliminary judgement in eight to 10 days.

But on the weekend the nation’s justice minister warned that with appeals, the method may last as long as three months.

Puidgemont, 54, who nonetheless describes himself as Catalonia’s “president”, has been energetic within the media since arriving in Belgium, however his efforts to internationalise the disaster have fallen flat with EU leaders closing ranks behind Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

In an interview with Scotland’s former independence chief Alex Salmond on the Kremlin-backed RT outlet on Thursday, Puigdemont remained defiant, declaring “we will win finally, democracy will prevail”. — AFP



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