A Belgian judge on Wednesday rejected an extradition request by Spain for three former Catalan ministers over their region's controversial independence bid, the court said.
The ruling scuppers the Spanish government's attempt to put the MPs, who fled to Belgium with ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, on trial for rebellion and misuse of public funds. Puigdemont has since been arrested in Germany.
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What the court decided
- The Brussels Court of First Instance said the extradition request against Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comin, and Lluis Puig was thrown out because there were no corresponding Spanish arrest orders.
- The lack of corresponding Spanish legislation means that the European arrest warrants are unenforceable.
- The court also found irregularities and imprecisions in relation to the extradition request, despite requesting further information from Spanish authorities, the Belga news agency reported.
- Prosecutors say that Spain can't appeal the decision.
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Following Wednesday's verdict, Comin expressed hope that the dispute could now be resolved politically and not through the courts.
"We also hope that the Spanish judiciary realizes that it cannot abuse the penal code to pursue political opponents," Belga news agency quoted him as saying.
Blow to Spain: The verdict came as another blow to Spain's attempts to have Catalan politicians extradited from European countries for their role in organizing the referendum in 2017. Last month, a Berlin court refused to extradite Puigdemont on the main charge of rebellion that Madrid levels against him.
Catalan referendum: Last October, Catalan government led by Puigdemont held an independence referendum and consequently declared Catalonia's secession from Spain. The move fueled a political crisis with Madrid that termed the referendum illegal, citing Spain's constitution which says Spain is indivisible. Madrid dismissed the regional government following the declaration and jailed some Catalan politicians, who stayed in the country.
Read more: Catalan independence - What you need to know
ap, mm/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)