Euro arrest warrant withdrawn for former Catalan president

Some ex-ministers released.
Some ex-ministers released. / R.C.
  • Three top regional leaders are still under arrest as election campaign starts in Catalonia and PM stands firm on any constitutional reform

The Supreme Court has made the surprise decision to withdraw the European Arrest Warrant issued for the ex-president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, and four ex-regional ministers.

All five have been in Brussels since late October when they were removed from power by Madrid over their separatist activities in Catalonia. During that time Belgian courts had been considering Spain's now- cancelled extradition request.

The move was explained as a way to ensure that any eventual trial in Spain covers all the offences they are accused of. Belgian law takes a different view of rebellion and sedition offences and it was realised that an extradition may only have been agreed to on lesser charges, which would have meant a softer trial for those politicians who were seen to flee the country than those who stayed behind and were arrested in October.

On Monday the Supreme Court freed on bail more of the other ex Catalan officials who were being held while investigations into them continue. Only three are still detained; former vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and the two Jordis, leaders of separatist movements. The judge said that there was a risk they would repeat their alleged offences during the Catalan election campaign.

The campaign started on Tuesday with opinion polls showing a very close race between pro-independence parties and the others.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has restated his view on a muted national constitutional reform to address the strength of the separatist movement in Catalonia. “For me, all Spaniards should decide on what Spain is and not just a part of them,” he said.