Belgian court to end Puigdemont extradition case: prosecutor

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A Belgian judge will officially end extradition proceedings for Catalonia's sacked leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his deputies on Wednesday after Spain dropped its request, prosecutors said in a statement.

During a court hearing, the judge "will have no other choice than to decide that the case is without merit," prosecutors said after Spain officially withdrew the European arrest warrant for Puigdemont.

Belgian prosecutors last month asked the judge to approve the warrant issued by Madrid for the five in the opening round of what was expected to become a protracted courtroom battle, with a first decision due on December 14.

But in a surprise ruling on Tuesday, a Spanish judge decided to withdraw the warrant as the five "appear to have shown their intention to return to Spain" to take part in regional elections on December 21.

Belgian prosecutors said that Spanish authorities had confirmed to them "the definite character of their decision," the statement said.

But there is still a Spanish arrest warrant for Puigdemont, which means the fugitives will be detained upon arrival in the country.

Paul Bekaert, a lawyer for Puigdemont, earlier told Belgium's L'Echo daily the Catalan leader would "not leave Belgium."

The developments come after the Catalan election campaign kicked off, with Puigdemont speaking to supporters in Catalonia on Monday night via video link.

Madrid called the new elections after the independence declaration on October 27, while dismissing Catalonia's government and suspending the region's autonomy. It hopes the polls will restore normality to the region.


© 2017 AFP

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