The Courts of Appeal in Brussels are to take a decision on the extradition of exiled Catalan politician Lluís Puig on 7th January. The pro-independence leader's lawyers informed media of this following a court hearing this Thursday in the Belgian capital.
Specifically, the country's court of second instance will give a ruling, after the Belgian prosecution appealed the decision of the court of first instance to reject the European Arrest Warrant because it considered that the Spanish Supreme Court was not "competent" to request Puig's extradition to Spain. At the hearing today, the defence asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss this objection from the prosecutors and again deny the extradition.
Not till 2021
Although the decision of this court has thus already been delayed until after New Year, it should be borne in mind that there is still a third appeal possible, before Belgium's Court of Cassation. In any case, it is clear that Belgium will not make a final decision on Puig's extradition until 2021.
Puig, who was Catalan minister of culture in the Carles Puigdemont administration, is sought by the Supreme Court for alleged misuse of public funds in the Catalan independence referendum case. Spain's European Arrest Warrants for all of the exiled Catalan politicians have encountered knockbacks from European justice, but after the guilty verdicts in the 2019 trial, they were reactivated.
"Arbitrary and unfounded" sentence, according to prosecutor
After Belgium denied Puig's extradition in August, one of the prosecutors in the Supreme Court trial, Javier Zaragoza, said that the sentence in the Belgian court was completely "arbitrary and unfounded", and that the minister should have been extradited.
Zaragoza asserted the ruling was "legally unsustainable" because it included "unusual" and "unacceptable" reasoning, and showed that "without any doubt" the European judicial cooperation space "had failed".
The case of Valtònyc
Puig's extradition case is not the only one underway in Belgium: the other active case is that of Josep Miquel Arenas, better known as Valtònyc. Specifically, the case of the Mallorcan rapper is to be heard in the Ghent Court of Appeal, which has now postponed the extradition hearing until at least May 27th.
This court was supposed to rule on September 15th on whether the musician would be handed over to Spain. However, his defence filed a preliminary question in September with the Belgian Constitutional Court to assess whether the country's law on insults against the crown - one of the offences for which Valtònyc was convicted to prison in Spain - is valid as grounds for Spain's European Arrest Warrant, so the hearing was delayed, initially until this Thursday, and now until May 27th.