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Belgian judge releases Puigdemont and his ministers

The judge is to decide within the next 15 days whether to accept the extradition petition from Spain

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06 November 2017 12:33 AM

by

ACN | Brussels

Deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his four ministers who are also in Brussels were released on Sunday at midnight after a Belgian judge decided that it was not necessary that they remanded in custody.

However, he has prohibited them to leave the country without his consent, he required them to communicate the address of a real residence, and demanded them to attend in person all court hearings and to comply all summons made by judicial or police authorities, according to a press release by the prosecutor's office.

Puigdemont and his ministers — Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig — voluntarily presented themselves in a police station in the morning, following the European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish prosecutor against them.

Whether Puigdemont and his ministers end up being extradited to Spain or not, the whole process could take up to two months, or even 90 days in exceptional situations. The timing could have a big influence on the political situation in Catalonia, as elections will be held on December 21. The Spanish government dismissed the Catalan executive, dissolved the Parliament and called fresh polls.

The judge is to decide within the next 15 days whether to accept the extradition petition from the Spanish judiciary. If he does so, Puigdemont and his ministers could appeal it, and a court will make a decision no later than 15 days. Ultimately, Catalan politicians could bring the latter’s decision to another court, which would have 30 months to decide.

Ministers and civil society leaders in jail

In Spain, eight Catalan ministers remain in jail since Thursday last week, pending possible charges over the October 27 declaration of independence. Their lawyers are to file a complaint about the “unjustifiably vexatious” abused by police officers against their clients, such as ordering them to strip naked, playing the Spanish anthem on a loop, and handcuffing their hands behind their back.

Pro-independence civil society leaders Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart are being held in custody since October 17 for their role in the independence referendum and the protests on the run-up to the vote.

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  • Catalan ministers leave in a white van after being released by a Belgian judge (by Laura Pous)