Spanish judge withdraws arrest warrant for Puigdemont

06 December, 2017, 01:21 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Bulgaria Catalonia Faces a Crucial Election on December 21

After receiving a request to free the 10 Catalan leaders, Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena decided there was a risk that Junqueras and three others would repeat their alleged offences if released.

In the last regional elections in Sept 2015, they won 72 seats with 47.8% of the votes. For pursuing Catalan independence after Spanish courts deemed an October referendum illegal, they were charged with rebellion, sedition, and the misuse of public funds. Extradition through the European arrest warrant in most cases requires "double criminality", meaning the crimes must exist in the statutes of both countries."He said the crime was "perpetrated in concert by all those under investigation" and therefore all the defendants must be treated as a single, unified group".

Meanwhile, former regional leader Puigdemont and four of his separatist allies learned Monday that a decision on Spain's request for their extraditions from Belgium will be made December 14.

The ruling also coincided with the official opening on Tuesday of the campaign before the December 21 elections for a new regional Parliament in Catalonia.

However, a final decision may not come until well after the election because of appeals.

Spain is seeking to have Puigdemont and four of his former ministers who fled with him sent back to face charges over their role in the independence drive.

Yesterday, Paul Bekaert, Puigdemont's defence lawyer, argued that the Spanish charges, which carry punishments of decades in prison, are not punishable in Belgium, and so grounds for extradition do not apply.

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There is also a question that if the former leaders were returned to Spain, it could violate their human rights, under European Union law, based on political discrimination.

The Spanish government called the early elections in a bid to find a democratic way out of the nation's worst crisis in almost four decades.

A government-run poll published Monday indicated that pro-independence parties would lose their slim majority in Catalonia's parliament.

Puigdemont's party, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), could not be immediately reached for comment.

The CIS survey said the poll had a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points.

Separatist parties have repeatedly accused Madrid of taking "political prisoners" and "repression", and the decision to keep some Catalan leaders in jail is likely to magnify those claims. But 53-year-old contractor Jose Luis Aguirre said the attempt to unilaterally break away from Spain "is an act that can not be allowed".

But Marta Rovira, Junqueras's deputy in his ERC party, said the decision was politically motivated.

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