A Belgian court yesterday refused the Spanish government’s request for the extradition of ex-Catalan culture minister Lluis Puig on charges of misusing public funds in the organisation of an outlawed independence referendum. Mr Puig has been in exile in Brussels since fleeing Spain in October 2017 with other Catalan secessionist politicians fearing arrest for their role in the banned referendum.
A statement from the Brussels prosecutor’s office revealed that the court had rejected the European Arrest Warrant in respect of Mr Puig on the grounds that the Spanish authorities who issued the warrant are not competent to do so. Mr Puig’s lawyers successfully argued that the jurisdiction for issue of the warrant was that of the Catalan courts.
Nine ex-Catalan officials were tried and convicted in Spain on charges of sedition last October while others including former regional president Carles Puigdemont and former health minister Toni Comin, who are also in Belgium, await the outcome of their extradition proceedings. Former education minister Clara Ponsati is also fighting her return to Spain from Scotland.
The Brussels prosecutor has indicated an intention to appeal the decision.