President of Catalunya Free and Safe to Carry on the Day Job

The President and ministers are declared free to go about their business in Belgium as Belgian judge considers the international arrest warrant issued by Madrid.

President Carles Puigdemont and the ministers Meritxell Serret, Toni Comin, Lluis Puig and Clara Ponsanti have been granted the right to operate freely by order of the Belgian judge on Sunday. All of them will be able to move unhindered within Belgium and have agreed as a condition that they will attend court if asked. This morning, Puigdemont and his ministers had attended a Belgian police station along with their lawyers after the Belgian prosecutor had received the arrest warrant issued by the judge of the Spanish Court of Justice Carmen Lamela.

It is now up to the Belgian justiciary to examine the case and determine whether there are grounds for extradition, in a process that can be extended for weeks or months. Puigdemon’s Flemish human rights lawyer, Paul Bekaert, explained this week to Belgian television station VRT that he would challenge any request for extradition, arguing that the jail sentences were disproportionate. The Belgian judge who is responsible for the case will have to decide whether Puigdemont and the four government advisers would incur a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment should they be imprisoned in Spain.

The judge is now 15 days to decide. This court must hear from all sides first. In case a decision is made to extradite them, there would still be another possibility of appeal that would send the case to the Court of Cassation.

In any case, the democratically elected leaders of the Republic of Catalunya will be free to conduct their business for at minimum another month. The jailed ministers in Madrid however, are at the mercy of the Spanish judicial system and are not likely to see fair treatment.

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