Brussels court throws out arrest warrant for Catalan politician
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Brussels court throws out arrest warrant for Catalan politician

Former Catalan minister Lluis Puig. © Belga

A court in Brussels has ordered that a European arrest warrant for Lluis Puig, a former minister in the autonomous government of Catalonia, may not be executed.

The announcement was reported by Puig’s lawyers, and has since been confirmed by the Brussels prosecutor’s office.

In January, a Belgian court ruled that an arrest warrant against Carles Puigdemont, the ousted former president of Catalonia, must be suspended since he enjoys immunity as an elected MEP.

This followed a ruling in December 2019 by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a case concerning another Catalan politician, Oriel Junqueras Vies, who was elected as member of the European Parliament in May 2019 but has been prevented by the Spanish authorities to attend the opening of the parliament

The Spanish national government in Madrid had issued the warrant against Lluis Puig, together with two more for Carles Puigdemont and fellow minister Toni Comin. All three were wanted for their part in the Catalan independence referendum of October 2017.

Madrid claimed the referendum was illegal because it had not been authorised by the national government. The three men have been charged with sedition, rebellion and the misuse of public funds by organising the referendum.

The three men have been residing in Belgium since the end of 2017.

The first warrant was issued against Puigdemont in October last year, followed by the two others in November. A warrant issued against former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati was delivered to the legal authorities in Scotland, where she is head of the school of economics and finance at the university of St Andrews.

Just hours before the arrest warrants were announced, the Spanish Supreme Court had handed down sentences of nine to 13 years for nine other members of the Catalan government.

The Brussels prosecutor’s office, which had applied for the execution of the warrant against Puig, explained that the court had considered the office that issued the warrants was not competent to do so.

Puig’s lawyers had argued that only a Catalan court could try him, and not the Supreme Court, as would happen if the warrants were executed.

The court has upheld that point of view. The prosecutor’s office is now considering whether to appeal the judgement.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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