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Upholding a Principle of Democracy - Belgium Releases Catalonia's Leaders

In a manner in line with modern principles of democracy, Belgium has released from detention five Catalan ministers, who turned themselves into the custody of the Brussels prosecutor in regards to a European warrant from Spain, which wants to punish the leaders, along with others detained in Madrid, for leading a democratic referendum towards Catalonia's independence.

Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont; Meritxell Serret, Minister of Agriculture; Antonio Comin, Minister of Health; Lluis Puig, Minister of Culture; and Clara Ponsati, Minister of Education; all voluntarily surrendered themselves on Sunday in Brussels on the Spanish warrant issued for their arrest alleging rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds regarding the October 1 referendum that approved Catalonia's independence. 

Catalonia's Parliament declared a Republic on Friday, October 27 after tabling the declaration for close to four-weeks in hopes of a settled agreement with Spain's central government, in Madrid, concerning the status of the autonomous Barcelona area. The Spanish High Court ruled the democratic referendum as unconstitutional and the central government on October 27, following Catalonia's declaration, fired the government of Catalonia, thus suspending the autonomy of the wealthy northeastern region.

As if the suspension of Catalonia's autonomy was not enough, the Madrid government summoned Catalan's leaders to court in Madrid. Nine ministers appeared - eight were jailed and a ninth, who had quit the local government before the declaration of independence, was granted bail.

Without guarantees of their safety or of a fair trial back in Madrid, Puigdemont and four other ministers did not answer the Madrid summons. Spain then issued warrants of arrest for the five in Belgium.

An investigative Judge in Brussels at the request of the Brussels' Prosecutor's Office, released the Catalans provisionally after some 10-hours of interrogations. They are not to leave Belgium, are to give disclosures as to their accommodations and are to return to court in Brussels within 14-days. 

Brussels has 60-days to either comply with or to deny the Spanish warrant. However, if the Catalans mount any legal objections to being returned to Spain, they would be allowed due process in the Brussels Courts. 

Yet, the eight ministers, who answered the Madrid summons, remain in detention in Spain which is indicative of  the former empire's intent to sternly punish anyone who dares to question Madrid's authority in a similar that it punished tribes, natives and abolitionists who resisted Spanish rule in the colonial era. Not enough rights activists are denouncing Spain's detainment of the ministers of Catalonia.

In contrast, rights activists have vehemently criticized China for arresting, putting on trial, convicting and jailing the youthful leaders of the 2014 "Umbrella Movement" for democracy in Hong Kong. Starkly enough, the three Hong Kong democracy advocates who China had jailed, are now free on bailing pending a January 16, 2018, hearing of their appeals of their sentences of six, seven and eight-months. Also, the three: Joshua Wong, 21, Alex Chow, 27, and Nathan Law, 24, were originally sentenced to community service, but a senior judge in Hong Kong reopened their cases because of the supposed light punishment, which led to their months-long jail sentences being imposed in August 2017, until they were freed on bail earlier today by the Hong Kong court.

In the mean time, Catalonia's leaders who used a democratic process, to wit: the referendum, could face 30-years in jail on the Spanish allegations and eight of them are still in jail as too many human rights stalwarts remain silent per Spain's actions to a democratic process.