The Spanish Supreme Court has withdrawn the international arrest warrant for the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and his four ministers, all of whom are currently in Belgium. The extradition request was issued by Spain’s National Court. However, the Supreme Court took over the case last week and decided to rescind the arrest warrant on Tuesday morning. Puigdemont and the members of his cabinet (Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Toni Comín) testified on Monday at a Belgian court regarding their extradition. The judge in the EU capital announced that a decision on their extradition would be taken on December 14.
During the extradition hearing in the Belgian capital on Monday, the prosecutor defended granting the extradition, since it identifies the crimes of ‘civil servant conspiracy’ and misappropriation of public funds.
Nevertheless, the Belgian lawyer of Puigdemont said later in the day that the Catalan president will not leave Belgium despite the withdrawal of the international arrest warrant.
Why did the Supreme Court withdraw the arrest warrant?
The Spanish Supreme Court now argues that it has given up on collaborating with the Belgian justice system on the grounds that the events under investigation were carried out by all of the defendants in a “concerted” way. Thus, according to the judge, the same court should decide for all of them. By rescinding the extradition request, the Supreme Court avoids having the Belgian justice system be involved in the decision on Puigdemont and his four ministers. In addition, the judge’s decree says that all five defendants have shown “their intention of returning to Spain in order to take office” as members of the Catalan Parliament, since all of them are candidates in the December 21 elections.
The Spanish Supreme Court also reconsidered on Monday some of the precautionary measures taken by the National Court regarding the Catalan ministers who did not go to Brussels in the wake of the declaration of independence. On November 2, the Spain’s National Court had ordered eight members of the Puigdemont cabinet be held in jail awaiting trial. On Monday, the Supreme Court judge decided to release six of them. The deposed Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and the home affairs minister, Joaquim Forn, stayed in prison. The Supreme Court also decided to keep the two pro-independence civil leaders incarcerated on October 16, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, in custody.