Belgian court rejects move to extradite ex-Catalan minister

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BRUSSELS (AP) — A Belgian court on Friday rejected Spain’s demand to have a former high-ranking politician from the region of Catalonia extradited back to the country to be tried for his alleged role in an independence referendum that Madrid branded as illegal.

The Brussels prosecutor’s office said the court had rejected enforcing the European arrest warrant for former Catalan culture minister Lluis Puig on the grounds that “the Spanish authorities who issued the warrant are not competent to do so.”

Puig has been living in exile in Belgium since he, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and a number of their associates fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest over the secessionist push he led and the holding of an independence referendum that the Spanish government said was illegal.

His lawyers had argued that Spain’s Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to judge Puig and that only a Catalan court is competent to do so.

The Brussels prosecutor’s office said it is deciding whether to appeal the Belgian court ruling.

Puigdemont has since been elected to the European Parliament.

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