The Latest: Spanish PM will respect Belgium on extradition
Nov. 17, 2017
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Catalonia (all times local):
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy say he will respect whatever decision the Belgian courts make regarding Spain's extradition request for fugitive Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his sacked ministers in Brussels.
Speaking on the sidelines of the European Union summit in Goteborg, Sweden, Rajoy said Friday that respect for the independence of the judiciary and acceptance of judicial decisions was a basic principle of the European Union and it would not be a good idea to begin questioning that now.
Given this, he said "from me you will not hear, no matter what happens, anything but respect for and compliance of the decisions of the judicial tribunals" in the extradition case.
He was speaking after Puigdemont and the ex-ministers appeared in a Brussels court for a first hearing in the extradition case. Another hearing will be on Dec. 4.
The lawyer for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says that the court hearing for his client and four secessionist allies on whether they should be extradited to Spain has been pushed back until Dec. 4.
Paul Bekaert said in a short statement that no decision was taken on Friday but that the case would be picked up again early next month.
Bekaert said that "the prosecutor today asked for the execution of the extradition request." But the lawyer said that "we can still give written replies. So nothing has been decided today."
The court started its proceedings in the early afternoon and finished a little over an hour later.
Spain has supplied a Belgian prosecutor with information detailing the jail conditions for fugitive Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont should he be extradited.
The Interior Ministry confirmed Friday that it had sent a document answering 14 questions sent by the prosecutor, regarding cell conditions, security guarantees, recreation, hygiene and food at the jails to which Puigdemont and four of his ex-cabinet ministers with him in Brussels would be sent.
Spain explained that Puigdemont would be sent to the modern Estremera prison outside Madrid and would have a cell of his own with a shower and toilet, or he could share it with one of his ex-ministers.
The ministry said the ousted Catalan government members, who are being sought for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, would have access to their lawyers.
Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said Thursday all the information requested had been sent but pointed out that "Spain is a state of law for many years," adding "Nobody in Europe is going to give us lessons."
The prime ministers of Spain and Belgium have held talks over their testy bilateral relations as ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four secessionist allies prepare for an extradition court appearance in Brussels.
Friday's court hearing for the five is the latest step in their flight from Spain and refusal to return from Brussels to face a rebellion investigation amid a push for Catalan independence.
The Belgian government has steadfastly said it can't intervene in Spain's extradition request since it's up to the independent judiciary to make a decision. Friday's court decision can still be appealed.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Belgian counterpart Charles Michel met on the sidelines of the European Union summit in Goteborg, Sweden.