Brussels court annuls arrest warrant against ousted Catalan leader Puigdemont

Brussels court annuls arrest warrant against ousted Catalan leader Puigdemont
Catalonia's former president was recently elected as an MEP and has been living in self-imposed exile in Brussels since leading a failed independence push from Spain. Credit: © Belga

A Belgian court has ruled that an arrest warrant against the ousted former president of Catalonia must be suspended since he enjoys immunity as an elected MEP.

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont took to Twitter to announce the decision, which also concerned Toni Comin, a former minister of the semiautonomous Spanish region.

"Belgian justice recognizes our immunity and decides to suspend the arrest and extradition warrant," Puigdemont tweeted, calling on Spain to follow in Belgium's footsteps and "respect the law."

The ruling was delivered on Thursday by a Brussels investigative judge, Puigdemont's lawyer Simon Bekaert confirmed, and it was made on the grounds on the Catalan politicians' recent accession to the European Parliament, De Standaard reports.

Both Puigdemont and Comin are currently living in exile in Belgium, and had been targetted by multiple European Arrest Warrants (EAW) issued by Spain over their involvement in a 2017 independence referendum declared illegal by Madrid.

Bekaert said the decision to suspend the EAW on Thursday comes after a EU court said that Oriol Junqueras, another Catalan politicians also facing charges in Spain over the failed secessionist push, enjoyed parliamentary immunity over his election as an MEP.

All three MEPs were barred by Spain to be sworn into the European Parliament (EP), but the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)'s ruling on Junqueras said he benefitted from parliamentary immunity from the moment he was elected.

"Since [Puigdemont and Cumin] are in the same situation, they enjoy immunity as Members of the European Parliament," Bekaert told De Standaard, adding that the Spanish courts would now have to ask the parliament to waive the elected officials' immunity.

Hours after the CJEU's ruling on Junqueras, both Puigdemont and Cumin collected temporary accreditations from the EP which enabled them to begin the accreditation for permanent credentials after the holiday break.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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