Prosecutor delays warrant request for independence leaders abroad
Judicial body prefers to wait until Catalan officials are prosecuted before considering demand for their extradition
Spain’s Attorney General will not request the European arrest warrant for pro-independence officials abroad who are under investigation to be reactivated until they are prosecuted. The judicial body prefers to wait until the judge in charge of the case finishes the inquiry and prosecutes the investigated Catalan leaders.
In a statement, the Attorney General stated that, when that time comes, the body will consider whether to request European police arrest and extradite to Spain the Catalan officials who are currently abroad. They were deposed by the Spanish government last October after declaring the independence of Catalonia, and faces criminal charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
On November 3, Spain’s National Court issued a European arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont, as well as for four of his ministers, after they left for Belgium and failed to attend a court hearing the day before. The Supreme Court then took over the case against Catalan leaders, and withdrew the international arrest warrant on December 5. At that time, Puigdmeont and his ministers had already attended two extradition hearings in Brussels. After the first, the Belgian judge decided to release the Catalan leaders. After the second, the Spanish judiciary rescinded the European arrest warrant before the Belgian judiciary could make a decision on the case.
Spain’s Supreme Court argued that it gave up on collaborating with the Belgian justice system so that the events under investigation could be carried out by all of the defendants in a “concerted” way. By rescinding the extradition request, the Supreme Court avoided the Belgian justice system becoming involved in the decision on Puigdemont and his four deposed ministers.
Spain’s Attorney General requested the reactivation of the European arrest warrant for Puigdemont when he traveled to Denmark in January. Yet the judge decided not to reactivate it, as he suspected that Puigdemont was trying to "provoke" his arrest.
The last pro-independence leader to leave Catalonia was the former CUP MP Anna Gabriel. She was summoned to appear in court on February 21, but did not attend, as she had sought refuge in Switzerland. Unlike with the Catalan leaders in Belgium, neither the Spanish Attorney General nor Spain's Supreme Court issued a European arrest warrant for Gabriel.
Three European countries host pro-independence leaders
Currently, three pro-independence Catalan leaders, Carles Puigdemont, Lluís Puig and Toni Comín, are in Belgium. Clara Ponsatí was with them in Brussels. However, she announced on Saturday that she had left Belgium for Scotland, and had gone back to work at the University of St Andrews. Meanwhile, Anna Gabriel remains in Geneva.