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Belgian court to decide on whether Puigdemont and Comin should be returned to Spain

The European Parliament has voted to lift the immunity of three Catalan MEPs that fled Spain to avoid prosecution for their involvement in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum. Two of the three, Carles Puigdemont and Antoni Comin, are currently in Belgium. The third Clara Ponsanti is in Scotland. The Judicial Authorities in Spain have issued European arrest warrants for their arrest and return to Spain.  A large majority of MEP’s voted to lift the Catalans’ immunity from prosecution in a vote that took place on Monday evening. In the case of Mr Puigdemont and Mr Comin it will be up to a Belgian court to decide whether they are sent back to face trial before a Spanish court. 

 

In the autumn of 2017, the then Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont and his government were removed from office by the Spanish government in Madrid after they had organised a referendum on Catalan independence that was in breach of the Spanish constitution.

Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comin and Clara Ponsanti fled to Belgium. Clara Ponsanti then went to Scotland. In 2019 the three Catalans were elected to serve as MEPs in the European Parliament. After a long-drawn out legal battle they were finally allowed to take their seats at the start of last year.

The Spanish High Court wants the Catalans to stand trial in Spain and a European arrest warrant has been issued. As Mr Puigdemont and Mr Comin are currently resident in Belgium a Belgian court must now decide on their fate.

Mr Puigdemont’s solicitor Paul Bekaert told VRT News that it is now up to the Belgian Judicial Authorities to decide whether the two Catalan politicians will be detained. A decision will be taken by magistrates in Brussels. 

In order to prevent the Catalans’ arrest Mr Bekaert intends to ask the European Court of Justice to overturn the European Parliament’s decision to revoke his client’s and the two other politicians’ immunity from prosecution. He says that he has high hopes that the European Court will agree to this as it is in the interest of democracy in Europe. 

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