Spain has withdrawn the arrest warrant out of fear, Puigdemont says
The Catalan president, now in Belgium, claims Spanish justice wanted to avoid losing extradition case
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, deposed by the Spanish government, said that Spain has withdrawn the international arrest warrant issued for him and his four deposed ministers in Belgium out of fear of "looking ridiculous, of losing."
In a press conference live from Brussels the day after the withdrawal, he said that the Spanish courts are “afraid” that the Belgian judge would decide that their actions “have been perfectly normal in a democracy.”
"It is banned to use a European mandate to persecute political crimes"
“The Spanish justice has withdrawn the arrest warrant for fear of the what the world would think,” added Puigdemont. According to him, under EU law “it is banned to use a European mandate to persecute political crimes.” Thus, the deposed Catalan president and top candidate for Together for Catalonia ticket said that “either they weren’t aware that (the arrest warrant) had a very weak basis to keep these accusations, or the arrest warrant was a juridical blunder.”
Puigdemont also predicted that after this move, Madrid will end up “withdrawing the Article 155 and the repression.” The withdrawal of the international arrest warrant was ordered on Tuesday by the Spanish Supreme Court. Yet Puigdemont’s lawyers said that the president and ministers would stay in Belgium.
"Will the Spanish state say that we have no right to take office (as MPs) if voted for by the citizens?"
Carles Puigdemont· Catalan president
In fact, the Catalan president said today that he and his ministers want to return to Catalonia, but “whether this is possible is different.” The five deposed officials are running for the election and their intention is to take office as MPs. “Will the Spanish state say that we have no right to take office if voted for by the citizens?,” asked Puigdemont. He even asked whether Madrid can afford the image of him leaving Parliament “handcuffed” after being elected as president.
The press conference came on Wednesday, fifteen days before the December 21 election and one day before a demonstration in Brussels against the Spanish measures against Catalonia’s self-rule.
Madrid admits that extradition "has not worked out well"
At the same time, the Spanish government also reacted to the withdrawal of the arrest warrant. “It has not worked out well,” admitted a Madrid official on Wednesday. Rajoy’s cabinet will ask the European Union to consider making extradition rules more flexible.