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Carles Puigdemont: Belgian judge suspends arrest warrant for Catalan leader

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By Euronews with AFP, AP
Carles Puigdemont: Belgian judge suspends arrest warrant for Catalan leader
Copyright  Aris Oikonomou / AFP

The arrest warrant against the Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has been suspended by a Belgian judge, a lawyer for Puigdemont said on Thursday.

Puigdemont's immunity as an MEP was cited as the reason for the warrant's suspension.

The Belgian judge in charge of the case also suspended the warrant issued against Toni Comin, a former Catalan cabinet member, lawyer Paul Bekaert told the Associated Press.

"Today, Belgian judicial authorities have again stopped the extradition attempt against president Puigdemont and councillor Comin, because they recognise their immunity as elected members of the European Parliament", the two Catalan leaders said in a statement.

Puigdemont and Comin are wanted in Spain for their involvement in a secession bid from 2017, led by the Catalan government and separatist MPs, which was deemed illegal by Spain.

The two fled to Belgium after the 2017 events and were elected as MEPs last May, representing the Catalan separatist parties from Spain.

Read more: Thousands march for Spanish unity in Barcelona after violent pro-independence protests

Puigdemont and Comin are two of three separatist leaders currently in Belgium and wanted in Spain. The third leader, Luis Puig, is not a member of the EU Parliament.

On 19 December, the EU's top court overturned a ruling preventing Puigdemont and Comin from taking their seats in the European Parliament.

The court also ruled that Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras had immunity as an MEP when he was jailed by the Spanish Supreme Court in October, which prompted calls for his immediate release.

Junqueras was Puigdemont's deputy in the Catalan cabinet.

Read more: EU top court rules Catalan separatist Junqueras was MEP with immunity when jailed in Spain

Thursday's decision, Paul Bekaert said, derives from the December ruling.

On Twitter, Puigdemont praised the Belgian authorities' decision and called for the release of Junqueras, who he said "has the same immunity" as Comin and himself.

"Spain must act in the same way as Belgium has done and respect the law," Puigdemont wrote.