Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and the four ministers that are with him in Belgium voluntarily turned themselves in at a Brussels police station this Sunday morning. This was confirmed by the Public Prosecutor's Office in Brussels in a press conference, at which it was stated that the president and the other members of the government have been in judicial custody since 9:17am on Sunday. The judge has until the same hour on Monday morning - 24 hours after the time they handed themselves over - to decide whether to remand them in preventative custody or to release them.
Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret were accompanied by their lawyers as they arrived at the Belgian police station. According to Belgian Public Prosecutor, spokesperson Gilles Dejemeppe, the Belgian ministry was in prior contact with the Catalans' lawyers, with whom it "reached agreement" on the surrender at the Brussels police station, with the Catalans "respecting" the agreement made. The ministers of the Catalan government decided to present themselves to Belgian justice because they had "no wish to evade judicial action, but rather to defend themselves in a just and impartial process," according to sources close to Puigdemont. The Belgian French-language broadcaster RTV confirmed that the Catalan government members' handover was completely negotiated with the country's justice authorities.
La reddition de Carles Puigdemont et ses ex-ministres a été entièrement négociée avec la justice belge https://t.co/t8CgQRKbgq— RTBF info (@RTBFinfo) 5 de novembre de 2017
Translation: The surrender of Carles Puigdemont and his former ministers was fully negotiated with Belgian justice
The Belgian prosecutor had required the surrender of Puigdemont and his ministers in response to the European Arrest Warrant issued by judge Carmen Lamela of Spain's National Audience, after the failure of the Catalan leaders to present themselves at the Madrid court last Thursday. Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and other ministers who did appear at the Madrid court were sent to prison preventatively by judge Lamela, who is investigating the Catalan government on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
Now it is a Belgian judge, not yet designated, who will have to decide on the extradition of the Catalan president and ministers to Spanish territory. Their declaration before a duty judge will begin this afternoon and could continue until late tonight. The magistrate will have to decide within 24 hours whether to free the Catalans or impose preventative prison, until another judicial decision is made on their extradition.
From the Brussels police station where Puigdemont and the four ministers initially surrendered, they were then transferred in police vans to the Public Prosecutor's Office, where they were to make their declarations, said the prosecutor's spokesperson, Gilles Dejemeppe.
It is likely that Puigdemont and the ministers will be allowed to go free, subject to certain conditions while the judge studies the case and decides on the extradition claim. The judge has 15 days following the issuing of the European warrant, which occurred on Friday, to decide whether it will be executed. Despite this, if any of the parties involved are not in agreement with the court decision - which may be the case of the lawyers representing the Catalan government members - they are able to present a claim to the Court of Appeals, which will then have 15 days to make a decision. The final handover of the accused politicians to Spain could take a total of 60 days, and an additional 30-day delay is possible in exceptional cases.