The Spanish Supreme Court was left in ridicule again on Thursday after the Brussels Court of Appeal once more rejected its demand for the extradition of the exiled Catalan culture minister, Lluís Puig. The news, in addition to being excellent for the exiled politician - since there would now have to be a veritable cataclysm in the future before this court or any other would change the decision - has a significant domino effect for the other three exiles who were also members of the Catalan government in October 2017 and over whom extradition orders are also pending: president Carles Puigdemont and ministers Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí. Given that the judge of first instance in those cases is the same one who ruled on Puig, and the Court of Appeal of Brussels as well, the path to preserving their liberty seems definitively clear.
The third European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain is beginning to look like a dead letter and Belgian justice has undermined such crucial aspects as the competence of the Supreme Court in the case and breaches of the right to the presumption of innocence of the pro-independence politicians whose extradition was requested. The Court of Appeal has delivered two loud slaps: the first, by confirming the decision of the judge of first instance that the Supreme Court is not competent to judge this matter, after this latest extradition warrant was issued by Spain. However, the second blow is even more stinging, in the courts opinion that there is a clear risk that Spanish justice will violate the presumption of innocence of Lluís Puig - and, by extension, that of all those sought - which is regulated by EU Directive 2016/343.
The Belgian judiciary understands that the whole trail of political statements by prosecutors and judges contaminates their ruling and there is an obvious risk to a fair trial. That phrase Más dura será la caída - "The harder they fall" - a label which the Spanish prosecution service put on its press release announcing the complaints against Carles Puigdemont's Catalan government and the Bureau of Parliament, has not been taken as a joke in Brussels, but rather as a premonition of something which years later would end up happening.
There will, then, be no extradition of any of them in the future and that is superb news. Spain has lost its argument, and its justice system, after forcing the matter to the point of issuing clearly unjust sentences, is left in tatters, although in Madrid and also in many media in Catalonia the correcting fluid ends up working miracles with the news stories. We will see, from here onwards, what happens with the requests made to the European Parliament for the lifting of immunity from prosecution on MEPs Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí.
If everything were to follow logic, those requests should lapse, as it is now known in advance that if the end purpose is extradition, that will not occur, in accordance with the Puig doctrine. So what would be the sense of lifting the MEPs immunity? Here, politics enters the fray in place of justice, along with the interests of ideological families and states. They have an honourable way out: to accept that the Supreme Court is not competent and thus drop it, but I am very afraid that Pedro Sánchez, Pablo Casado and Inés Arrimadas will not play this card. They will prefer to force MEPs to take an uncomfortable stand in a vote that, in the end, will lead nowhere.
Above all, because today it is almost 100% certain that Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will, if it is their wish, serve all of the five-year terms as MEPs for which they were elected in May 2019. And this does not depend on whether their immunity might possibly be lifted so an extradition hearing could take place, but on the final result of such a hearing which, for the time being, seems now to have been decided. Withdrawing the European Arrest Warrants would be another possible path. But Spanish justice does not usually learn from its mistakes.