Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Global | By Enrique Rogers

European arrest warrants withdrawn for Catalan leaders

European arrest warrants withdrawn for Catalan leaders

Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Belgium after an illegal independence referendum.

However, today's ruling by the supreme court judge Pablo Llarena robs Mr Puigdemont and his colleagues of at least one of their gripes against Madrid.

Last month, Spain's central government issued the warrants for Puigdemont and four of his allies-Meritxell Serret, former agriculture minister; Antoni Comín, former health minister; Lluís Puig, former culture minister; and Clara Ponsatí, former education minister.

On Monday, a Belgian court said it would rule on December 14 whether to extradite Puigdemont whilst a court in Spain chose to keep the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and three other senior Catalan politicians in jail on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members went to Belgium when Madrid imposed direct rule on the wealthy northeastern region after an October 27 declaration of independence by his local government.

The decision does not mean that Puigdemont, who faces charges of rebellion, would not be arrested if he returned to Spain, where he is still wanted by judicial authorities.

Spanish Supreme Court withdraws Carles Puigdemont international arrest warrant
Arrest warrant dropped for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

"We also highlighted the danger for the impediment of their human rights in Spain", Bekaert said.

Political parties in Catalonia started campaigning Monday for the early regional election called by the Spanish government in hopes of quashing the region's independence movement and featuring candidates who are either in jail or living overseas to avoid detention.

The Spanish government has said the early election is an attempt to find a democratic way out of the nation's worst crisis in almost four decades. It had ERC, Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and the far-left anti-establishment CUP party winning 66 or 67 of the parliament's 135 seats.

The decision comes on the first day of the campaign for the Catalan regional elections to be held on December 21.

Separatist parties have repeatedly accused Madrid of taking "political prisoners" and "repression", and the decision to keep some Catalan leaders in jail is likely to magnify those claims.

The judge's decision follows mounting concerns among Spanish legal experts that the Belgian judiciary could in effect limit the range of crimes for which Mr. Puigdemont and the others could be put on trial if brought back to Madrid from Brussels.

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