Catalonia: the Spanish Supreme Court asks Italy to hand over “immediate” former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont | Spain
The arrest of former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont in Sardinia, Italy on September 23 opened a new legal path for the Spanish Supreme Court, which is seeking his extradition for the role he played in the illegal referendum of Catalonia and the unilateral declaration of independence of October 2017.
Puigdemont fled Spain with several aides to avoid prosecution for the events, while those who remained behind, including then-Deputy Prime Minister Oriol Junqueras, were tried and sentenced to prison terms. for sedition and embezzlement of public funds. They were pardoned by the Spanish government earlier this year.
Puigdemont has been living in Belgium since the end of 2017, but attempts by the Spanish courts to extradite him to Spain to face criminal prosecution have come up against the Belgian courts, which have so far failed to execute the warrants of European judgment against him and other independence. rulers who settled in this country. He was also briefly arrested and released in Germany in 2018.
A day after his arrest on the island of Sardinia, where he was attending a folklore festival, Puigdemont was released by an Italian court as judges examine whether the European arrest warrant against him is valid and whether he benefits currently immunity as a member of the European Parliament (MEP), which he joined following the 2019 European elections. In March of this year, this body voted to lift his immunity, and in July the General Court of the European Union rejected Puigdemont’s request for an injunction against the suspension of his immunity while the court considers his appeal.
Puigdemont’s arrest last month created a very uncomfortable situation in Italy, where the executive learned about it through the media. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday that he had not been in contact with the Spanish government on the matter.
It also intervened at a delicate time in Spain, where Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE) had just relaunched negotiations with the Catalan government on the future of the region.
Judge Pablo Llarena of the Supreme Court of Spain, who handled the case against the leaders of the 2017 secession candidacy, on Thursday sent a request to the Sassari Court of Appeal for the “immediate” transfer of Puigdemont to Spain. Llarena said the European arrest warrant against the Catalan separatist leader remains valid despite the fact that Spain’s Attorney General’s office previously said it was not – a claim that influenced the European Court’s ruling to deny Puigdemont’s request to temporarily restore his immunity, as there was no perceived risk of detention.
The Sassari court will have to assess Spain’s arrest warrant, but the normal thing would be for the court to let Puigdemont leave the country until then and give him another court date.
Source familiar with the case
The separatist leader left Italy on September 27 after his brief arrest and was seen at the European Parliament in Brussels the same afternoon. He told reporters he plans to return to Italy on October 4 for a scheduled hearing before the Sassari Court of Appeal, which will begin to consider whether to follow through on the arrest warrant.
Judge Llarena mainly asks Italy to hand over Puigdemont to him. But in the event that the European courts restore his immunity as a precaution, he also asks the Italian judges not to abandon the procedure but to suspend it instead, and to take measures so that Puigdemont can still be extradited on a date. later. – through regular appearances before courts in Italy, for example.
“The court in Sassari will have to assess Spain’s arrest warrant, but the normal thing would be for [the court] to let Puigdemont leave the country by then and give him another court date, ”said a source familiar with the matter.
According to the Italian justice, however, if Puigdemont did not appear on October 4, the procedure would be completely abandoned since the arrest warrant is not applicable to a person outside the territory. Sources familiar with the situation said it would make no sense for Spain to continue to seek his extradition from Italy, and that in these cases the defendants usually do not show up for court hearings.
Meanwhile, the EU General Court still has to examine the appeals lodged by Puigdemont and his fellow MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí – former members of his cabinet who fled to Belgium with him – against the lifting of their parliamentary immunity more early this year. These kinds of cases can take up to 17 months to resolve, according to legal experts.
english version by Susana Urra.