Spain lifts European warrant for Catalan leaders

A Supreme Court judge on Tuesday withdrew the European arrest warrant against ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four other ex-ministers.

They fled to Belgium a month ago days after unilaterally declaring independence from Spain, prompting charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of funds.

The five still face those charges, which carry heavy penalties, including 30 years' imprisonment for rebellion, and a national arrest warrant remains in effect.

"Those under investigation seem to have shown their intention to return to Spain, with the aim to take position of elected offices," Judge Pablo Llareno said in his ruling.

Puigdemont is a candidate in Dec. 21 Catalan election. His lawyer told Belgian newspaper L'Echo that Puigdemont "will not abandon Belgium".

The judge said the decision to drop the European arrest warrant was made because of differences between Belgian and Spanish laws.

This could mean the charges, primarily rebellion, could be limited by Belgian law and the Catalan politicians could be extradited to Spain on lesser charges.

Under European law, extradition through a European arrest warrant usually requires "double criminality", meaning one country could refuse to extradite a fugitive if the offense does not exist in the second country, in this case Belgium.

The five have said they would not face a fair trial in Spain.

Six former Catalan ministers were released from prison on bail on Monday but four others, including former Catalan Vice President Orial Junqueras, were remanded in custody.

Later Tuesday, the judge also lifted an international arrest warrant against the five independence leaders in Belgium.

Source: Anadolu Agency