Belgium has rejected to extradite three Catalan deposed ministers wanted by Spain. A Belgian judge dismissed on Tuesday the European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain for Lluís Puig, Toni Comín and Meritxell Serret.

In a hearing in Brussels, the prosecutor (document in Spanish) and the defense agreed that the extradition request had “procedural defects” and “irregularities”, and therefore the judge rejected it. “We demand the end of judicialization of politics and the release of all our colleagues” said Meritxell Serret immediately after knowing the court’s decision.

We are truly satisfied,” said Toni Comín. “This decision, by a court, shows that Spain is abusing the criminal code to persecute democratically elected politicians,” he added. The deposed Health minister, who is currently an MP, said that “it is time to end this abuse” and start doing politics.

Beyond political opinions

“Let’s go back to dialogue, let’s prioritize negotiation and agreements to solve a political problem” added Meritxell Serret talking to the press. The deposed Culture minister, Lluís Puig, said that the Belgian justice decision could have a “multiplying” effect for the cases affecting Carles Puigdemont in Germany and Clara Ponsatí in Scotland.

“Belgium rejects extraditing Catalan ministers in exile to Spain. This is good news that shows that in Europe rights are guaranteed beyond political opinions” said deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont from Berlin.

The lawyers of the Catalan leaders had explained the irregularities in the European Arrest Warrant to the judge , something that the Brussels prosecutor had also detected. In fact, the attorneys said that the Spanish Supreme Court was warned of these “defects” but the Spanish judge refused to correct them. That is why both parties agreed the case could not go forward and should be dismissed by the judge, as was done today.

Precedent?

Belgian dismissal of the European Arrest Warrant could set a precedent for the case against Carles Puigdemont in Germay, said his lawyer, Jaume-Alonso Cuevillas. In fact, the EAW is “exactly the same” therefore containing the same “irregularities.

Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig are wanted by Spain over their role on the October 1 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence. Comín is accused of violent rebellion and misuse of public funds, while Serret and Puig are wanted for the lesser charge of disobedience and misuse of funds.