- Former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont has been arrested on the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia.
- The newspaper “La Vanguardia”, citing information from the court in Madrid, stated that the reason was a European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish Supreme Court against the separatists residing in Belgium.
- An Italian court is now likely to consider whether Puigdemont should be released or extradited to Spain.
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, confirmed his arrest Thursday night on Twitter. The arrest is likely to make the just-starting dialogue between the Spanish central government in Madrid and the separatist regional government in Barcelona over resolving the long-standing crisis more difficult.
Spain accuses Puigdemont and other separatists of rebelling over the illegal independence referendum in Catalonia on October 1, 2017, and of trying to secede from the region. Puigdemont is the decisive force in the separatist camp, who do not give a negotiated solution to the conflict a chance and want to impose the region’s independence if necessary against the resistance of the rest of Spain.
Puigdemont traveled to Sardinia to participate in a meeting of independent Sardinian local politicians. The newspaper “El Pais”, citing those around Puigdemont, reported that the police had detained him at the airport in the city of Alghero, and he was due to be handed over to the Court of Appeal in the city of Sassari on Friday.
As a member of the European Union Parliament, Puigdemont has immunity. However, the EU Parliament lifted the immunity of Puigdemont and two other separatist MEPs from Catalonia. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg rejected the temporary legal protection requested by Puigdemont in the form of a suspension of the waiver of immunity. There will be a decision on the main issue soon.
Delivery to Spain is possible
According to Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer Beckert, there is now an attempt to take legal action against the arrest in Italy. At the same time, an urgent request for the return of parliamentary immunity to the European Court of Justice is being prepared, a lawyer for the German news agency dpa said. This must be submitted if the Italian authorities do not quickly release Puigdemont or even proceed to extradite him to Spain.
After the banned independence referendum in Catalonia in 2017, Puigdemont, like some of his fellow activists, fled abroad. Since then, the Spanish judiciary has been persecuting him.
The Italian judiciary must decide now
Italy reporter Philip Zahn’s assessment:
An international festival of Catalan culture in Alghero, the linguistic enclave of this culture and language in Sardinia – the conditions could not be better for arrest and international media coverage, if Carles Puigdemont meant it at all.
One thing is certain: at the end of July, the European Court of Justice rejected the temporary legal protection of the former Catalan president, after the European Parliament lifted the immunity of the current MEP in March. Since 2019, Spain has put the Catalans on its international wanted list due to rebellion and sedition. The background to this 2017 independence referendum, which was illegal under Spanish law.
The trip to Sardinia appears to be Carles Puigdemont’s first trip abroad under a new legal framework. At the same time, his party “Together for Catalonia” internally quarrels with the separatist but politically stronger leftist Republicans at home.
The arrest of the Italian authorities now in Sardinia is at least once again drawing international attention to the Catalan politician and his movement, despite all the legal risks.
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