The Belgian justice system has made a move before the Supreme Court has issued a ruling. The judge responsible for dealing with the European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) for former President Carles Puigdemont and former cabinet member Toni Comín has decided to suspend them since they are both covered by parliamentary immunity. Puigdemont himself announced the decision this Thursday on his Twitter account: "Belgian justice recognizes our immunity and decides to suspend the arrest and extradition warrant!". In a reference to former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, he went on to say, "Spain must act in the same way as Belgium has done and respect the law".
Puigdemont and Comín's defence team had asked Spain’s Supreme Court to withdraw the EAWs, but they had yet to respond. The Prosecutor's Office, in turn, had requested the opposite: that the extradition requests against the pair be upheld, while simultaneously calling on the European Parliament to withdraw their immunity.
Before the Supreme Court has issued a ruling, the Belgian justice system has suspended the EAWs in compliance with the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) decision and in order to put an end to the provisional measures affecting the former members of the Catalan government, which prevented them from leaving Belgium. The Luxembourg-based court ruled on 19 December that Oriol Junqueras –and consequently Puigdemont and Comín– had parliamentary immunity since they had been elected as MEPs and that all proceedings against them (including pre-trial detention) ought to be dropped until such time as the European Parliament were to authorize any legal proceedings following an appeal. In an interview with ARA, Comín questioned whether it would be in Judge Llarena’s best interests to appeal the court’s decision.
For now Puigdemont and Comín can travel freely throughout the whole European Union, if they so wish. In fact, on 13 January they are expected to travel to Strasbourg, on what will be their first visit to France, to participate as fully-fledged MEPs in the first plenary of the European Parliament’s new term. According to the former president’s associates, Puigdemont is planning on holding an event in Perpignan, in Northern Catalonia, where the JxCat parliamentary group also intends to meet.
The Junqueras case, pending the Supreme Court’s decision
Unlike the Belgian courts, the Supreme Court has yet to rule on Junqueras, who was directly implicated in the ECJ’s decision. So far, only the legal teams have stated their position. The Prosecutor's Office have called on Junqueras’ parliamentary immunity to be withdrawn and for his disqualification from holding public office to be made effective (the Supreme Court suspended the move following a preliminary ruling by the ECJ), while the former Vice President’s defence team has called for Junqueras’ immediate release and for the sentence to be overturned. The State Attorney General, on the other hand, has declared that Junqueras ought to be able to exercise his parliamentary rights as an MEP until the European Parliament accepts an appeal. However, it believes that the ruling on the 1 October trial must be given "full validity". This position was the sticking point during negotiations between the PSOE and ERC over the investiture of Pedro Sánchez, who is due to be elected as Spain’s new Prime Minister on 7 January.