(Bloomberg) — A Spanish judge withdrew a European arrest order against ousted Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont in a maneuver that may affect his strategy for
fighting regional elections due later this month.
Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena rescinded the European warrant for Puigdemont, who was planning to fight the Dec. 21 elections from Belgium on a ticket to keep pushing for Catalonia to secede from Spain. Llarena’s decision also applies to four other former regional government officials who are with him in Belgium.
Llarena said he’d taken the decision to allow the investigation against former Catalan officials accused of crimes including rebellion for their bid to break with Spain to proceed in a coherent way. Puigdemont still faces arrest if he returns to Spain, an official at the Supreme Court said by phone Tuesday.
“This leaves Puigdemont’s legal strategy in limbo,”said Ignacio Molina, senior analyst at the Madrid-based Elcano Institute. “He was betting authorities in Belgium would
contradict the charges issued by the Spanish justice. Now he’s alone.”
Puigdemont fled to Brussels at the end of October as the Spanish government invoked constitutional powers to sack his government and call new regional elections.
The withdrawal of the the arrest order comes a day after Llarena decided to keep four pro-independence campaigners including Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president in
Puigdemont’s government, in jail on remand as investigations continue.
On Monday, a court in Belgium postponed a decision on a request made by another Madrid judge to send Puigdemont and the other officials back to Spain. His defense lawyers argued against extradition saying the alleged crimes under investigation aren’t punishable in Belgium. The court was scheduled to make a decision on Dec. 14.