Ousted Catalan leaders face extradition hearing in Brussels

Carles Puigdemont Belgium
Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP
Carles Puigdemont Belgium
Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers will front an extradition hearing in Brussels today after they handed themselves in to Belgian authorities earlier this month.

The lawmakers have since been forbidden from leaving Belgium, which is suitable for Puigdemont since eight members of his former Cabinet were imprisoned in Spain. Spanish authorities have issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont, who faces charges of sedition, rebellion, and prevarication.

While it is unclear whether the Belgian extradition court will decide to send the former Catalan president back to Spain, today’s hearings will have important implications on Belgium-Spain relations. Ties between the European partners are strained after Belgium condemned police violence after the independence referendum last month.

The two countries have already traded verbal barbs over the issue; most notably, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon urged the international community to “keep a close watch” on Spain after questioning whether jailing the former Catalan lawmakers complied with international law. Expect relations to be further damaged by a drawn-out extradition process, particularly if the case is thrown out.

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