Catalan officials in Belgium and in jail face key day in court on Monday

Puigdemont and four ministers in Brussels are testifying over their extradition case while the leaders in Madrid prisons will know if they are released

Brussels' Palace de Justice on November 17 (by Blanca Blay)
Brussels' Palace de Justice on November 17 (by Blanca Blay) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

December 3, 2017 06:40 PM

All Catalan ministers from Puigdemont’s cabinet are closer to know their fates. On Monday both the ones in prison and the ones in Brussels will face an important day in order to know whether they will be able to campaign in Catalonia ahead of the December 21 election. Carles Puigdemont and his four ministers in the EU capital are due to testify in a Belgian court on Monday at 9am local time. It is the third hearing they are facing in their extradition process.

On November 5, the Belgian justice decided not to rule preemptive imprisonment to Puigdemont and his ministers, all of them deposed by the Spanish government, while the decision on their extradition was being discussed. On November 17, they faced another hearing, in which the Belgian prosecutor rejected them having committed the crime of corruption. The Spanish judge who issued the international arrest warrant for them included corruption as one of the charges she was accusing them of. The prosecutor and the judge in Belgium accepting this charge would have meant immediate extradition.

For one of the most prestigious criminal lawyers in Belgium, Denis Bosquet, it “might be a good sign” for the defense the fact that the prosecution ruled out corruption charges. Also, for Bosquet it might have shown the “weakness” of the Spanish international arrest warrant itself. The lawyer also told the Catalan News Agency that the judge in charge of the case will have to decide whether the crimes that the Catalan officials are accused of have an equivalent in Belgium. “If he has any doubts regarding this, he’s going to say no” to extradition, stated Bosquet.

Revisit of preemptive imprisonments

At about the same time, a judge from the Spanish Supreme Court is expected to announce whether he lifts the precautionary measures, including prison, to the eight other ministers behind bars. The judge is also expected to take a decision also about the preemptive imprisonment of the leaders of two pro-independence civil organizations, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

On Friday all ten Catalan leaders testified at the Supreme Court, which wanted to review the precautionary measures another court, the Spanish National Court, imposed for them on November 2. The hearings on Friday ended with the judge stating that he would decide on Monday and the Spanish prosecutor willing the preemptive imprisonments to continue.

While the Spanish Supreme Court is expected to decide on Monday, it is uncertain when the Belgian justice will take a decision on Puigdemont’s extradition. The electoral campaign for the December 21 election starts on Tuesday.