The Belgian Public Prosecutor has warned the Spanish judicial authorities that they would be better to withdraw the European arrest warrant against the former Catalan Minister-President, Carles Puigdemont. This has arisen because the Belgian court has said it is still against handing him over. Paul Bekaert, Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer, said this when giving an interview to the Catalan media website La Directa. Bekaert was not available on Thursday for further comment.
Me Bekaert analysed the situation thus, “From the moment that the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office realised that it would lose the case, the European arrest warrant was withdrawn.” He added that it is highly exceptional for such a measure to be taken.
The lawyer explained, “In 99% of cases, the accused is handed over where there is European Arrest warrant.”
He went on, “Refusals to do so only happen when there is a risk of violating human rights or when the double jeopardy criterion is not met. This latter point was central to our defence, the issue being if the crimes had taken place in Belgium, would they have been punishable in our jurisdiction? The answer to this question is ‘clearly not’”.
Paul Bekaert goes on that were, hypothetically, Flanders to declare its independence, in Belgium only the Constitutional Court could quash this decision. He considers that elected members of parliament would never end up in prison for such an act. Bekaert spoke about the indictments for the Spanish crimes of rébellion (resisting a public officer executing the law or a lawful order) and sédition (inciting rebellion against the state). In this regard he stated, “It is clear that these indictments were tailored to the requirements of the authorities.”
The lawyer maintains that the Belgian Public Prosecutor’s Office spoke about handing over Carles Puigdemont, and four of his other ex-ministers, currently in exile in Brussels. It did so to keep the peace between the two states. The lawyer said, “The public prosecutor’s offices in both Spain and Belgium are directly linked at international level, and dependent upon mutual support.”
The lawyer lastly added that the Catalan leader and his colleagues will only return to Spain when the Spanish warrant for their arrest, to be distinguished from the European warrant mentioned above, has been withdrawn. He says that it could take a long time before that is the case elaborating, “I have a case of a Basque client who has lived for ten years in Belgium as a European citizen. During this period, the Spanish authorities have requested on two occasions that he be handed over for crimes which happened some thirty years ago. The Spanish judiciary are refusing to drop the case.”