Belgium declines to extradite Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium just days after declaring independence for Catalonia

Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium just days after declaring independence for Catalonia

Friday, November 17, 2017

A court in Belgium has declined to extradite Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his former counsellors.

The court has postponed a decision on whether to send the five people back to Spain, and a fresh hearing will take place on December 4.

The decision might be delayed even further, as the judge may choose to request additional information when the rescheduled hearing takes place.

Today's hearing at the Palace of Justice in Brussels began just before 2pm local time (1pm GMT), and was conducted behind closed doors. Puigdemont and his ex-counsellors were protected by a tight security ring as they arrived at the venue and escaped the majority of the press, according to news outlet ABC.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium just days after declaring independence for Catalonia on October 27. The Spanish government wants him to return to face charges of sedition, and judge Carmen Lamela issued a European arrest warrant against him earlier this month.

Prior to the hearing, it had been reported that lawyers for the Catalan separatists would say Lamela's arrest warrant was "very badly formulated" and express doubt that the charges laid out in the warrant correspond to Belgian law.

Spain is due to hold fresh elections in Catalonia on December 21, after the Madrid government took control of the Catalan generalitat and sacked its ministers. Puigdemont is due to stand as a candidate for the PDeCAT party when the vote takes place.