Warrant for Carles Puigdemont, Catalan Separatist, Is Dropped

Protesters hold the lights of their mobile phones as they wave Estelada flags during a demonstration called by pro-independence associations asking for the release of jailed Catalan activists and leaders in Barcelona Spain. REUTERS  Albert Gea

Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday withdrew worldwide arrest warrants for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four ex-cabinet members.

However, today's ruling by the supreme court judge Pablo Llarena robs Mr Puigdemont and his colleagues of at least one of their gripes against Madrid.

But Puigdemont's Belgian lawyer, Paul Bekaert, said that the Catalan separatist leader wasn't planning an immediate return. Extradition through the European arrest warrant in most cases requires "double criminality", meaning the crimes must exist in the statutes of both countries."He said the crime was "perpetrated in concert by all those under investigation" and therefore all the defendants must be treated as a single, unified group".

Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members went to Belgium when Madrid imposed direct rule on the wealthy northeastern region after an October 27 declaration of independence by his local government.

Spain is seeking to have Puigdemont and four of his former ministers who fled with him sent back to face charges over their role in the independence drive.

Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Belgium after an illegal independence referendum.

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Puigdemont and his associates were due to appear in a Belgian court on December 14, coincidentally, when Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is in Brussels for a meeting of European Union (EU) leaders.

However, pro-independence parties view the election as a proxy vote on a split from Spain.

There is also a question that if the former leaders were returned to Spain, it could violate their human rights, under European Union law, based on political discrimination. It had ERC, Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and the far-left anti-establishment CUP party winning 66 or 67 of the parliament's 135 seats.

Puigdemont gave a televised address from Belgium at a campaign rally on Monday, telling the central government in Madrid that his party would win the election.

Because the Belgian penal code doesn't have an equivalent for a charge of "rebellion", the Spanish court withdrew the global warrants to allow for legal action against Puigdemont, as rebellion is one of the most serious crimes attributed to him.

However, the judge said it remained to be seen if his promise to abide by Spanish law was "truthful and real".

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