A Belgian judge closed the extradition case against Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his four ministers on Thursday, a week after the Spanish Supreme Court announced the withdrawal of its European Arrest Warrant over concerns that the Belgian justice criteria might interfere with the judicial process against pro-independence leaders in Spain.

Puigdemont and his ministers are now free to leave the country whenever they want, as the closing of the case suspends the precautionary measures imposed by the Belgian justice while a decision on their extradition was made.

Puigdemont landed in Brussels on October 30th, just a few days after the Spanish government dismissed his cabinet and imposed direct rule in Catalonia following a declaration of independence. As the public prosecutor filed rebellion charges against the Catalan government members, Puigdemont claimed that he did not trust the Spanish justice to offer him a fair trial.

The Spanish National Court preemptively sent the eight ministers who stayed in Catalonia to jail, and issued a European Arrest Warrant against Puigdemont and the four other ministers who accompany him in Brussels: Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret, Lluís Puig and Clara Ponsatí.

In recent weeks, the Supreme Court took over the case and decided to release six of the incarcerated ministers, as well as withdrawing the extradition order, on the grounds that the investigated events—the declaration of independence on October 27 and the referendum held on October 1, for instance—were carried out by all the defendants in a “concerted” way, and therefore should be tried in the same court.

The Supreme Court thus avoided having the Belgian justice involved in the ongoing judicial process at the Spanish level, which according to the judge Pablo Llanera could limit the charges under which the Catalan leaders can be tried on their return.

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Vicent Partal
Director de VilaWeb