Three backers of Catalonia's independence sought Thursday to get released from jail for their role in the region's push to break from Spain, which triggered the country's worst political crisis in decades.
Former Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, a member of pro-independence civic group National Catalan Assembly, and Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart made their cases to a Spain Supreme Court judge. A ruling from Judge Pablo LLarena is not expected Thursday.
Forn was one of several regional ministers jailed on provisional charges of rebellion after the regional parliament unilaterally — and unsuccessfully — declared Catalonia an independent republic Oct. 27.
The action prompted the Spanish government in Madrid to remove the region's government from office, dissolve the parliament and call a fresh election that was held last month.
Sanchez and Forn were elected on separatist party tickets, but the Spanish government still is running Catalonia.
Sanchez and Cuixart had been jailed earlier on provisional sedition charges related to preparations for an Oct. 1 independence referendum, which Spain's Constitutional Court had suspended.
All three supporters of Catalan independence told the judge they would oppose further unilateral moves to secede and act in accordance with Spanish law, according to lawyers familiar with the proceedings.
The lawyers requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss what was said during the closed-door hearings.
The lawyers said Sanchez acknowledged that the Oct. 1 referendum was not legally valid. Forn, who as interior minister oversaw Catalonia's security and its regional police, said he would not accept the post again, if he were asked to.
A court in Belgium on Friday pushed back the extradition arguments of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four allies until at least Dec. 4, likely keeping the secessionist rebels in Belgium right through Catalonia's regional election campaign.
The court hearing in Brussels for the five Catalans is the latest step in their flight from Spain to Brussels and their refusal to return to face rebellion and sedition charges that could land them in jail for 25 years.
Before the court session, the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium discussed their bilateral relations, which have been strained over the case of the Catalan officials who are wanted on a Spanish arrest warrant.
Puigdemont lawyer Paul Bekaert said after the first court session Friday that "we will argue the case on Dec. 4." Whatever decision is made at that stage, two appeals will be possible and a final ruling could well only come only after the Dec. 21 election day in Catalonia.
Bekaert said even though the prosecutor asked for the execution of the extradition request from Spain for the five, the defense lawyers could still give written arguments until early next month.
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.
Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.
Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.
Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.
Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.
The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.
"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.
A Palestinian court has extended the detention of a prominent activist who criticized the autonomy government of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Farid al-Atrash, the lawyer of Issa Amro, said Thursday that the court had extended his client's detention for four days.
He says Amro is being held under a recent edict that allows the government to crack down on social media critics. In a Facebook post, Amro criticized the detention of a local journalist who called for Abbas' detention.
"This is a black day in the history of the Palestinian judicial system and for Palestinian freedom of expression," al-Atrash said.
Amro was detained on Monday and has been on a hunger strike since then. Amro, 35, also faces charges in an Israeli military court. His trial is to resume in October.