The decision of Judge Llarena to withdraw the extradition order against members of the Catalan government in exile was meant to save face, but what it did was to highlight the anomalous functioning of Spanish justice for all to see.
It was possible that the Belgian judge would not approve the extradition order on the basis of doubt that the accused would receive decent treatment and a fair trial in Spain. But word had it that the Belgian judge was not going to allow the charges of rebellion, sedition, or misappropriation of funds, leaving only the charge of disobedience. Rebellion and sedition carry penalties of up to 30 years in Spain, while disobedience carries no prison sentence – only the possibility of the person being suspended from holding office.
Llarena withdrew the extradition order of the president and his cabinet because he knew that there were only those two possibilities: (1) that the Belgian judge would not grant it - finding that in Spain there are no procedural guarantees for a fair trial, or (2) that he would accept it but limit the charges to disobedience. This is because the charges of rebellion and sedition do not exist in Belgium, or in most other modern countries, having been condemned to obsolescence sometime after the middle ages, and a European extradition order must be for a crime that exists in both member states or appear on a list of 39 specified crimes. In any case, even the Spanish definition of rebellion requires violence and there was no violence in this case. And finally, in Belgian law, misappropriation of funds can only be applied when the accused has personally appropriated the funds and that was not in the accusation. This would mean that Puigdemont and the four ministers, if extradited, could only be tried for disobedience, which carries no prison sentence.
Either of these two outcomes – denying the extradition or reducing the charges -- would be a great embarrassment to Spain and the Spanish justice system. When Llarena wants to hold a trial which could condemn the accused to thirty years in prison, and Belgium considers that at most they could be prevented from holding office, the difference in the possible charges and the penalty is so gross that it is inexplicable. So to avoid the embarrassment of having to answer to the inexplicable, Llarena withdrew the extradition before the Belgian judge’s decision on the matter.
With the withdrawal of the extradition order by the Spanish, the Belgian judge has immediately withdrawn preventive measures (where unlike their counterparts in Spain who are in prison without bail, those in Belgium were free without bail but had to remain in Belgium and make themselves available to the court whenever called). President Puigdemont and his ministers are now free persons except if they enter Spain where they would be immediately arrested to face charges of crimes that are not crimes in other European countries.
The first consequence of the withdrawal of preventive measures against the legitimate government of Catalonia will be that President Puigdemont, counselors Ponsatí, Serret, Comín, and Puig will be able to participate freely in the demonstration on Thursday in Brussels where it is expected that 20,000-30,000 Catalans will gather before the EU headquarters to demand that the EU uphold the basic human and civil rights written into its constitution and supposedly guaranteed to all EU citizens (Catalans included).
They are coming to Brussels because the coup d'état against the self-government of Catalonia would not have been possible without the total support of the European Commission. Claude Juncker made a bad decision for the interests of the Union and in terms of European morals and politics.
President Puigdemont made a statement from Brussels about the cancelling of the extradition order, saying that the “Spanish are not so brave when the world is looking at them. When they can’t control the whole chain, when they don’t have judges who are friends, or prosecutors who are close to them, and they have the whole world looking at them, then they are not so brave.”
Puigdemont asked why the charges against the rest of the accused were also not withdrawn. He said that they were victims of a political persecution for carrying out the mandate of the Catalan public that voted for them. “That’s not a crime, that’s democracy,” he said.
He said the extradition order was withdrawn because Spain has realized that the accusations of rebellion and sedition are not acceptable in Europe and that Europe prohibits persecution for political crimes. He also said that leaving Spain and going to Europe was a useful strategy because it brought to light the state of Spanish justice.