DELEN

The Belgian lawyer representing Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, Paul Bekaert, has accused Mariano Rajoy of using the courts for political ends, in Spain and in Belgium, and went as far as to compare the Spanish government with that of Turkey, which also attempted to employ Belgian justice to pursue its exiled political opponents. Bekaert made this claim on Saturday in an interview in L’Écho, one of Belgium’s leading Francophone newspapers. Bekaert gave the news that on Monday, in front of the Belgian court that has summonsed him, president Puigdemont will appeal to the possible violation of human rights in the Spanish state and will also bring up the issue of the double criminality in the Spanish and Belgian legal orders relating to the charges against him. Even though he did not want to give more details of the defence strategy, the Belgian lawyer emphasised that there has been no violence in the Catalan independence process, and therefore neither “rebellion” nor “sedition” could be said to have occurred (these two offences also being non-existent in Belgian law). He also questioned the fact that there has been “corruption”. In the interview the lawyer affirmed that there are precedents for denials of European arrest warrants when there is a risk of them being used for political purposes, and he stated that the rules are very clear and that these European warrants can never be used in political cases. Bekaert predicts a long process. Provisionally, the case should be heard before 2nd January, but the lawyer has warned that there may be delays. He even made it clear that there was the possibility of Puigdemont seeking political asylum in Belgium. Paul Bekaert has had past success in extradition cases relating to Spain, having twice convinced Belgian courts to reject the deportation of a Basque defendant due to a risk of human rights violations, and he asserts that there is a possibility of blocking the extradition of the Catalan president. Speaking from his office, with Emile Zola’s famous denunciation J’accuse…! on show, Bekaert did not spare the European Union from criticisms for its tolerance of human rights violations by the Spanish government, and made it clear that he defends the right of peoples to seek self-determination.

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