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A new judicial persecution. The head of Criminal Court Number 1 in Huesca (Aragon) has opened up the possibility, to the Spanish public prosecutor and the private prosecution, of requesting the arrest of the former Catalan culture minister Lluis Puig, who has been in Belgian exile since 2018, if they consider it "essential" for him to appear personally at the trial to be held against him and his predecessor in office, Santi Vila, over the disputed ownership of the artistic heritage of the Sixena Monastery. In his note, the judge ruled out the initiative of the Belgian prosecutors for the former minister to testify by video conference with the support of an investigating judge or police officer from that country.

In particular, the Huesca judge considers that the presence of a Belgian investigating judge is not appropriate because the case is not in the investigation phase, "nor are the police at all appropriate for the taking of his testimony". He also understands that there is no "physical or legal impediment" to Puig's presence at the hearing, scheduled for May 4th. However, he admits that due to the sentence requested by the prosecutors, which won't result in a prison sentence, the trial can be held without his presence, "unless the prosecution considers his presence essential," added the judge, in which case it would be possible to agree on his arrest and delivery to the court", as the EFE agency reported. The public prosecutors are requesting an 11 month prison sentence and a fine of 18 euros per day for eleven months for both Puig and Vila, and the private prosecution, conducted by the municipality of Villanueva de Sigena demands that the daily fine be 300 euros.


In response to the judge's note, the legal representative of the city council of Villanueva de Sigena, lawyer Jorge Español, is in favour of the arrest and delivery of Puig to be present in the court, asserting that he cannot claim defenselessness as "it is obvious that this gentleman does not intend to attend the trial nor will he do so." An absence that the lawyer relates to the situation of Puig as a "fugitive" from Spanish justice and that, in his opinion, requires an arrest to be ordered to ensure his presence at trial to avoid a subsequent appeal to European courts for violation of rights. He also considers that although the Belgian public prosecutors "wanted" to comply with the arrest warrant, there is a "very big hurdle" stopping its execution, which he says is the existence of judges of Flemish origin who "if they have not handed over Mr Puig to Spain up till now, will be unlikely to order his arrest and extradition."

In addition, Español is asking the judge to ask the Belgian public prosecutors for a "reasoned opinion" on the possibility that Belgium will comply with the arrest warrant to attend the trial. The Huesca prosecutors office, awaiting the Belgian decision in this regard, demanded a few weeks ago that Lluís Puig testify in person in the planned trial against him and his predecessor, after initially seeing this request rejected by the judge in charge of prosecuting the case. In his appeal, the prosecutor ruled out the existence of reasons of "utility, security or public order" that would justify the taking of a statement to Puig as a defendant by telematic means, "beyond the fact that he is accused and in rebellion with a case pending before the Supreme Court and with arrest and extradition orders whose validity has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court." In fact, the arrest of Puig and the other Catalan politicians in exile has been put on pause for months due to the preliminary questions raised by the Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Thus, this proposal for his arrest comes just week after the hearing held in the great chamber of the European Court of Justice at the initiative of judge Llarena due to the refusal of the Belgian courts to extradite Puig, considering that the Supreme Court is not competent to judge him and his rights would not be guaranteed if he were arrested and handed over to Spain.