A Belgian judge did not rule Friday on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain against ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, instead setting December 4th for the next hearing.
During a closed-door hearing, prosecutors had asked the judge to extradite Puigdemont and four members of his cabinet to Spain, where they would face charges of rebellion and sedition for their roles in the region’s independence drive.
Madrid issued the warrant for Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers after they fled to Brussels last month and ignored a summons to appear before a Spanish judge, claiming they would not get a fair trial.
Spanish authorities had removed Puigdemont and his 13-member Cabinet from office for pushing ahead with secession.
Friday’s court appearance was the first hearing in what could become a protracted courtroom battle, with both sides expected to appeal the outcome.
Under current Belgian law a decision on a European arrest warrant should be made within 60 days.
That means that Puigdemont and his associates could still be in Belgium when Catalonia goes to the polls on December 21 for an early election ordered by Madrid to “restore normality” in Catalonia, Spain’s northern wealthiest region.