A Brussels court has turned down a request from Spain for the extradition of the Catalan politician Lluis Puig for his involvement in an illegal independence referendum in the province.
Puig has been resident in Belgium since 2017, after he and a group of fellow supporters of the independence of Catalonia were charged with dereliction of duty and misuse of public funds, relating to the organisation of a referendum on independence in violation of a court order to desist.
Puig, together with party leader Carles Puigdemont and others, took refuge in Belgium, from where they have successfully fought off a number of attempts by the Spanish justice system to have them returned to Spain to stand trial.
Puig, meanwhile, was also the subject of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which allows a person to be arrested in an EU member state on the request of any other member state. One court in Brussels already rejected the warrant last August, and now a higher court has confirmed that refusal on appeal.
The appeal was brought by the Brussels prosecutor’s office, who argued that the charges against Puig would have been criminal if the offences had been committed in Belgium.
But Puig’s lawyers argued that the EAW had been issued by the Spanish supreme court, which does not have the power to do so. In addition, if he had been turned over by the Belgian court, he would have stood trial before the Supreme Court, whereas only a court in Catalonia is empowered to try him.
The expectation now is that Spain will make another attempt to have the Catalan separatists delivered to stand trial, as a number of their colleagues are already in custody in Spain.