Spain seeks arrest of Catalan ex-leader Puigdemont in Belgium

Reuters , Wednesday 16 Oct 2019

Carles Puigdemont
Former Catalan premier currently in exile Carles Puigdemont attends the event 'Wat met Europa' (What with Europe), at the Factory Building in Roeselare, Belgium, on October 15, 2019 (Photo: AFP)

Belgium has received a third arrest warrant request from Spain's Supreme Court for Catalonia's former pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Belgium turned down the first two requests, made in 2017 and 2018. Puigdemont went into self-imposed exile in Belgium in autumn 2017 after Catalan separatist leaders organised a referendum that Spanish courts had ruled illegal and made a short-lived declaration of independence.

Spain's Supreme Court filed its third extradition request days after convicting nine other Catalan leaders of sedition over the independence bid and sentencing them to jail terms ranging from 9-13 years.

"Considering the complexity of the file and the two European arrest warrants previously sent against Mr. Puigdemont, the case will require a thorough judicial analysis," The Brussels prosecutor's spokeswoman said.

It may take weeks to reach a decision, she said, adding that the key issue for local authorities would be to decide if the convictions for sedition were legally recognised in Belgium.

Belgian courts had used the same criterion in rejecting the first two Spanish requests.

The latest warrant was submitted in Spanish. The law requires that it be sent in one of Belgium's three national languages or English so Spain will send a new one next week, the spokeswoman said.

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