German Court: Former Catalan Leader May Be Extradited to Spain

German Court: Former Catalan Leader May Be Extradited to Spain

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 - 17:45
Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont could be extradited to Spain for alleged misuse of public funds, said a German court on Thursday.

Puigdemont fled to Brussels after Spanish courts issued a warrant for his arrest over his role in Catalonia’s declaration of independence last October. This was illegal under Spain’s constitution, according to Spanish law.

The court rejected a request to send him back to answer a more serious charge of rebellion.

A source in Puigdemont’s legal team said the former Catalan leader would appeal a decision to extradite him from Germany on any charge. If extradited for misuse of funds, Puigdemont could not be tried for rebellion in Spain.

A spokeswoman for the Schleswig Holstein court said: “The court decided this morning that an extradition due to the accusation of misuse of public funds is permissible.”

Responding to the court decision, German prosecutors said they would soon decide whether to authorize the extradition of Puigdemont, who was arrested in March while traveling through Germany.

The German court decision comes after Spain’s new Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met with the new pro-independence Catalan leader Quim Torra on Tuesday in a move aimed at easing tensions between Barcelona and Madrid.

In response to the ruling, Sanchez said he respected judicial rulings on Puigdemont, whether it was from Germany, Belgium or Spain, but he said the former leader would need to be tried in Spain for his part in the secession push.

The charge of misuse of public funds carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years while the more serious charge of rebellion, faced by many of Puigdemont’s former cabinet, could put him in prison for up to 30 years.

“We have defeated the main lie given by the state. German justice denies that the Oct. 1 referendum was rebellion,” Puigdemont tweeted following the court decision.

He also called the imprisonment of six former cabinet members, two NGO leaders and the previous head of the Catalan parliament, serving time while awaiting trial, “unjust” and an “embarrassment.”

Puigdemont became president of Catalonia in January 2016 after an election which saw separatists win a majority in the regional parliament for the first time.

Less than two years later, on October 1, 2017, he helped stage an independence referendum even though the courts had ruled it unconstitutional.

The Catalan government claimed that 92 percent of voters backed independence in the referendum, which saw a 43 percent turnout, with Puigdemont declaring his region had "won the right to an independent state".

Then at the end of October, he fled Spain after being deposed by Madrid and his region put under direct rule over a failed declaration of independence.

He was the separatists' candidate of choice to return as Catalan president after December regional elections saw pro-independence parties win again.

But the courts decided otherwise, judging he could not rule the region from abroad.

So in May he stepped aside in favor of Torra, an editor who is also a dyed-in-the-wool partisan of independence.

But Torra, seen as a mere puppet of Puigdemont, has so far remained in his shadow.

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