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Belgian judge adjourns Puigdemont extradition hearing until December 4

Catalan president and former ministers appear in Brussels court on Friday but case is postponed while judge studies charges

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17 November 2017 04:56 PM

by

ACN | Brussels

The Belgian judge presiding over the extradition case of dismissed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his four former ministers has decided to adjourn the hearing until December 4. Puigdemont and the ministers - Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig - testified in the Palace of Justice in Brussels on Friday for about an hour.

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso Cuevillas, considers the adjournment positive and said the Belgian legal system “provides a lot of guarantees” compared with the "hastiness we are used to from Spanish courts." The Belgian judge wants to study how the offenses of sedition and rebellion the officials are charged with compare in Belgian and Spanish law.

Puigdemont and the four ministers arrived at the Palace of Justice half an hour before they were due to appear, at 2pm. Arriving together as a group, they entered the building through a car park, and thus avoided being filmed by waiting television cameras. The hearing was held in private, without either the public or the media allowed to attend.

Decision could take several days

After hearing the case on December 4, the judge will decide whether to accept the extradition warrant for the officials issued by Spain’s National Court. Yet, sources close to the Belgian prosecutor say a decision will not necessarily be made straight away and could take several days. Whatever decision the judge makes, the officials will have the chance to appeal.

The Spanish judiciary wants to extradite the officials to Spain to face charges of sedition, rebellion and the misuse of public funds. The Belgian judiciary has already requested information from the Spanish National Court about the case. Among the information requested were elements of the Spanish penitentiary system, such as the internal regime of prisons, where the Catalan officials would end up if handed over to the Spanish authorities.

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  • President Carles Puigdemont with minister Clara Ponsatí in Brussels on November 13 (byAlba Barrionuevo)