The former Catalan Health Minister, Toni Comín (C), speaks with journalists at the Palace of Justice in Brussels on May 16, 2018
The Belgian judiciary rejected on Wednesday the extradition of the three former Catalan separatist councilors for „irregularities“ in the euroordenes carried out by Spain, a decision that represents a new setback for the Spanish authorities.
The Spanish mandates against Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig „are irregular“, so the Chamber of the Council of the Court of First Instance of the Netherlands of Brussels „rejects its execution,“ it said in a statement at the end of a hearing.
The irregularity lies, according to the prosecution that issued a negative opinion on the euroordenes, in the „absence of conforming national detention orders“ in Spain, a formal requirement when requesting a European arrest and delivery order.
„The process ended, we won against Spain in a quick and humiliating manner,“ Cristophe Marchand, a Belgian lawyer from Comín and Serret, told AFP. Despite the requested clarifications, the Spanish judge who issued the euroordenes only provided an „act of accusation“ and „not the mandate of national detention.“
The three independence leaders recover their freedom of movement in the Belgian soil, but this decision can be appealed by the defense and the public prosecutor. The latter already announced in a statement that „will not appeal“ and said that the „Spanish authorities“ can not do it.
– ‚Satisfaction‘ –
Accompanied by activists in favor of the independence of Catalonia, Catalan relatives and MEPs, the former Catalan health minister, Toni Comín, expressed his „satisfaction“ for the decision, among independentist flags.
Comín is the only one of the three accused in Spain of rebellion, a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison, together with the misappropriation of public funds. The former Minister of Agriculture, Meritxell Serret, and her cultural counterpart, Lluís Puig, face on their part that accusation plus that of disobedience.
The Belgian justice examined for the second time a request for extradition against Catalan politicians. After withdrawing the first euroorden in December, the investigating judge of the Spanish Supreme Court, Pablo Llarena, decided to reactivate it in March after redefining the crimes.
The decision on Wednesday is a new setback in Europe for the Spanish authorities.
In Germany, a regional court is studying the crime of misappropriation of funds against the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, after rejecting the accusation of rebellion for the time being.
Puigdemont, who almost a week ago resigned to revalidate as Catalan president and proposed a deputy next, could only be tried in Spain for the charges retained by the German judge.
Thus, if the extradition is confirmed only for embezzlement, which in its aggravated form carries up to 12 years in prison, Puigdemont would be freed from being prosecuted for rebellion.
Former Education Counselor Clara Ponsatí, who lives in Scotland, also faces a euroorden against her for the same crimes as Puigdemont and Comín.
The five politicians moved initially to Belgium at the end of October 2017, after the dismissal of the Catalan regional executive when Madrid took control following the unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.