Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images
The Supreme Court of Spain has withdrawn its international order for Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan leader.
Puigdemont and four other former Catalan ministers have been fighting their extradition from Belgium. The decision leaves the accused the decision to return to Spain.
The Associated Press reports that the five face charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement related to their role in organizing an independence referendum in October that Spain declared illegal.
Judge Pablo Llarena made it clear that he did not want the five to be prosecuted for minor offenses that the other defendants but did not leave the country, The Guardian reports:
"Llarena said that he had been moved to act after realizing a discrepancy between Belgian and Spanish law that would limit the charges under which the Catalans could be extradited and therefore be charged upon return.
"Sources in Brussels they believe that Puigdemont's lawyer was preparing to argue that the definitions in the Belgian law for the crimes of sedition and rebellion are different from those of the Spanish statutes. Extradition through the European arrest warrant in most cases requires "double criminality", which means that crimes must exist in the statutes of both countries.
"He said that the crime was perpetrated in concert by all those under investigation" and, therefore, all the accused must be treated as a single unified group. " In total, 20 former Catalan leaders face charges, with possible sentences of up to 30 years in prison, The New York Times reports.
The five arrived in Belgium a month ago, saying they could not get a fair trial in Spain Puigdemont has a campaign rally for 20,000 Catalans planned in Brussels on Thursday, according to the Times .The newspaper notes that the presence of the former leader has complicated things for the Belgian prime minister , Charles Michel, who wants to preserve the relationship of his country with Spain by considering the interests of the Flemish separatist party that is part of his ruling coalition.
The exiled Catalans still face national arrest warrants in Spain, and They can be arrested if they return there. The judge noted that the five had "demonstrated their willingness to return to Spain to assume the elected office," so they would not need extradition, according to Guardian . Puigdemont says he plans to stay in Belgium for the time being, although his rival Oriol Junqueras is in prison in Madrid. If Puigdemont stays in Belgium, points out Guardian "he runs the risk of giving moral ground to Junqueras".
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ordered regional elections on December 21 to "restore democracy" "