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2 Jan, 2020 13:00

Belgium suspends extradition warrant on Catalan independence leader Puigdemont

Belgium suspends extradition warrant on Catalan independence leader Puigdemont

A Belgian court has suspended the extradition of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, citing his immunity as a member of the European Parliament, the pro-independence politician has confirmed on his Twitter.

The court ruled in favor of Puigdemont and another pro-independence politician, Toni Comin, who served as health minister in the exiled leader’s former government. Both politicians are now residing in Belgium, and are wanted in Spain on charges of sedition over their role in organizing a banned Catalonia independence referendum in 2017.

The two were still elected to the European Parliament in May as representatives of the Catalan parties. In late December, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Puigdemont and Comin should be allowed to sit as MEPs, and that Madrid had no right to block them.

Just days after the ruling, Madrid prosecutors asked a Spanish judge to maintain the international arrest warrants for both politicians.

In his latest tweet, Puigdemont called for the release of another pro-independence leader, Oriol Junqueras, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail for his role in the attempted secession. “Spain must act in the same way as Belgium has done and respect the law,” the former Catalan president said, pointing to the fact that Junqueras was an MEP as well.

Also on rt.com Catalan president guilty of disobedience, unfit to hold public office for 18 months – Spanish court

Catalan independence remains a hot topic in the region more than two years after the referendum was shut down by a heavy-handed police operation. Both secessionists and unionists have repeatedly hit the streets in massive demonstrations throughout the region ever since.

Most recently, thousands of protesters demanding self-determination and the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders took to the streets of Barcelona following a highly anticipated El Clasico match in La Liga on December 18. The protest ended up in clashes between the demonstrators and riot police.

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