Belgian public prosecutors have asked for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and ministers Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret, Clara Ponsatí and Lluís Puig to be extradited. The ministers, who have been in Belgium since 30th October, had a hearing this morning at the Palace of Justice at Brussels.
In a statement, prosecutors say that, this morning, "each party has been able to explain their viewpoint and, when necessary, present documents. The Brussels prosecutor has asked the court to carry out the European Arrest Warrants".
The case is now in the hands of the judge who has today said that he will announce his decision in 10 days time. That date, 14th December, is exactly a week before the Catalan election, campaigning for which officially starts at midnight tonight. If the judge accepts the prosecutors' request, the formalities to transfer them to Madrid will start. It is likely a judge in Spain would conclude they pose a flight risk and a risk of reoffending, in which case they would probably be sent to preventive custody without bail, like some of their colleagues who remained behind in Spain. All of the five are standing for election on 21st December.
After the judge announces his decision next week, the defence will have the option to appeal up to twice. This could draw the extradition process out over up to three months.
Although the prosecution had originally warned that the hearing could last all day, in the end, all five testified together, and only for three hours. It comes the same day as Spain's Supreme Court has reviewed the preventive detention against the ministers and pro-independence leaders being held in prison near Madrid.