The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has announced the day on which it is to release its judgment on the preliminary questions that Spanish judge Pablo Llarena raised as a result of the decision of Belgian justice to deny the Spanish request for extradition of the former Catalan government minister, Lluís Puig. The chosen date and time, ElNacional.cat can inform, is Tuesday, January 31st, 2023, at half past ten in the morning. The reading will take place in the courtroom at the ECJ complex. The resolution will be key to the future of the Catalan politicians in exile: that is, the cases of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont; ministers Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí and Lluís Puig; the general secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira; and the former CUP deputy, Anna Gabriel.
A process lasting almost two years
At the beginning of January 2021, Belgian justice ruled against the claim for extradition of Lluís Puig by the Spanish state. The Belgian authorities rejected the request because, in their opinion, there was a "lack of competence" on the part of the Supreme Court and because they detected a "risk of violation of the presumption of innocence" after verifying the various statements of judges and Spanish politicians about the case. Three months later, the investigating judge for the case of leaders who played roles in Catalonia's October 1st referendum, Pablo Llarena, made a move and presented seven preliminary questions to the ECJ, in order have a assessment of Belgian justice's refusal to enforce the European Arrest Warrants issued against the Catalan exiles and, in this way, to be able to "establish criteria" to determine when to maintain, withdraw or issue new European warrants, depending on what the highest EU law court says. For Llarena, Belgium had not "respected the judicial procedures with regard to Spanish internal law".
Once Llarena had presented these questions to the ECJ, the arrest warrants against the exiled pro-independence politicians were suspended. In fact, this is the argument that a court in Sardinia used to release Carles Puigdemont in September 2021, although the Spanish Supreme Court, at the time, defended that the arrest warrants were still in force. The preliminary hearing with regard to the questions was set for April 5th, 2022. The 15-judge court was chaired by Koen Lenaets. All the Catalan exiles are involved in the case: Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Lluís Puig, Marta Rovira and Anna Gabriel. The other parties taking part were the Spanish state, represented by the lawyer Andrea Gavela and the prosecutor Fidel Cadena; Romania and Poland, which aligned with Llarena and questioned the fact that there was preeminence of European law over national law; the European Commission, represented by Julio Baquero; and Belgium, which opposed the Spanish approach.