Belgian judge suspends extradition of Catalonia’s Puigdemont

Former Catalan leader is currently in Belgium but is wanted in Spain over his role in a failed 2017 secession bid.

Puigdemont and Comin - reuters
Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and Regional Minister Antoni Comin, left and right, have had arrest warrants suspended, their lawyer said [File: Johanna Geron/Reuters]

A Brussels court has suspended the extradition of former Catalan pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont, his lawyer said on Thursday.

The Belgian judge in charge of the case also suspended the arrest warrant issued against former Catalan cabinet member Toni Comin, citing their immunity as members of the European Parliament, said Paul Beckaert 

The two are wanted in Spain for their role in an illegal 2017 secession bid by the Catalan government and separatist legislators.

They fled to Belgium after the independence attempt failed, and were elected to the European Parliament in May, 2019 as representatives of Catalan separatist parties from Spain.

Another Catalan leader and member of the European Parliament, former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, is serving a prison sentence for his role in the banned referendum.

Last month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said Junqueras was entitled to immunity since he was elected as a member of the European Parliament in May 2019, implying that Puigdemont and Comin should benefit from the same immunity.

It is not clear, however, if they will finally be allowed to take them.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office did not immediately answer a request for comment.

Puigdemont handed himself in to Belgian justice authorities in October after Spain issued a warrant for his arrest, following the sentencing of 12 of his former colleagues.

Last week, Spain’s state attorney called for the temporary release of Junqueras, in what was widely seen as a gesture of political goodwill as the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) seeks Catalan support to form a government.

The state attorney’s office asked the Spanish Supreme Court on December 30 to allow Junqueras to travel to Brussels to take his seat as a member of the European Parliament.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies