Catalonia’s deposed President Carles Puigdemont and four Ministers released from bail in Belgium

nsnbc : Deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdmont and four of his also deposed ministers were released with conditions in Belgium on November 5 after turning themselves in to face a European arrest warrant issued by authorities under the central government of Spain in Madrid.

Carles Puigdemont_Belgium_Catalonia_(Archives)A Spanish judge ordered the five, who fled Spain earlier this week after being accused of rebellion and sedition, not to leave Belgium until their extradition case is heard. It is the latest development in the crisis unleashed when Catalan separatists’ responded to Madrid’s unwillingness to discuss the outcome of an independent referendum, deemed illegal by Madrid, by declaring independence, leading to Madrid suspending Catalonia’s autonomy.

“They were taken into custody at 9:17 am (0817 GMT),” said Gilles Dejemeppe, a spokesman for Belgian prosecutors. A white van believed to be carrying Puigdemont reportedly raced out of the Belgian prosecutor’s office around 15 hours later. “The request made this afternoon by the Brussels’ Prosecutor’s Office for the provisional release of all persons sought has been granted by the investigative judge,” said the statement by the prosecutor’s office shortly afterwards.

The next court hearing will be in the following 15 days. Belgium has up to 60 days to decide whether to send the Catalans back to Spain. Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party said on November 5 that he had turned himself in to show his “willingness not to flee from the judicial process but to defend himself in a fair and impartial process, which is possible in Belgium, and highly doubtful in Spain”.Puigdemont wrote on Twitter on November 4 that he and his colleagues — Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig and Clara Ponsati would cooperate with the Belgian authorities.

Spain issued the European arrest warrants on November 3 after Puigdemont and his allies ignored a summons to appear before a judge on allegations linked to the move to declare Catalonia an independent republic. The judge in Madrid had on November 3 put Puigdemont’s deputy and seven other deposed regional ministers behind bars because of a risk they would flee.

Late on Friday, Puigdemont told the Belgian public TV channel RTBF that he would put his faith in the Belgian courts. “I will not flee from justice. I will go towards justice, but real justice. I’ve told my lawyers to tell the Belgian justice system that I’m completely available to cooperate,” he said. “It’s obvious it’s politicized. The guarantees are not there for a fair, independent trial,” he continued.

In an earlier interview in Brussels on Monday Puigdemont stressed that there was an “enormous influence of politics over the judiciary in Spain” and that “It’s not normal that we risk 30 years in prison, it’s extremely barbaric, we can not talk about democracy.”

Puigdemont stressed that he was ready to stand in the upcoming election in Catalonia called for by Madrid after it suspended the Catalan institutions and suspended the region’s autonomy pending elections organized under the auspices of Madrid , adding: “It’s possible to run a campaign from anywhere. We consider ourselves a legitimate government.

“There must be a continuity to tell the world what’s going on in Spain … It’s not with a government in jail that the elections will be neutral, independent, normal.” In a written request to the judge, prosecutors said Puigdemont and four other members of his administration were aware they had been ordered to testify, but had chosen not to attend.

By Friday, of the nine former ministers who did appear in court in Madrid on Thursday, eight were remanded in custody. A ninth Catalan minister, Santi Vila, was released from custody on Friday after posting bail of €50,000 (£44,000). Vila, who resigned from Puigdemont’s government a day before the independence declaration, said as he left prison near Madrid: “I ask for all political parties across to Spain, appealing to their democratic values, to put an end this terrible situation that has put politicians in prison.”

The Spanish government claimed that the jailings were not politically motivated. Education Minister, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, claimed the matter had been decided by an independent judge and the government was instead focusing on elections called by the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, for December. “There is a separation of powers in Spain and what happened yesterday is in the realm of the justice system and beyond the reach of the government,” Méndez de Vigo said on Friday. “What the government guarantees is that there will be elections where the parties which want to run can present their programmes, and we hope that the election can end this period of uncertainty and the deterioration of harmonious coexistence in Catalonia.”

Lawyers for those under investigation said their clients would appeal against the judge’s decision, which they described as unjustified, disproportionate and predetermined. In a televised address on Thursday evening, Puigdemont had branded the detention of his colleagues a “very serious attack on democracy” and called for their immediate release. Speaking as thousands of people protested across Catalonia, he said: “Imprisoning political leaders for fulfilling an electoral commitment breaks down the basic principles of democracy.”

F/AK – nsnbc 06.11.2017

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