Catalan Carles Puigdemont released and allowed to leave Italy

Arrested Thursday in Sardinia, Carles Puigdemont was released Friday and allowed to leave Italy, according to his lawyer, even if the justice of this country has yet to decide on the extradition request filed by Spain, where the Catalan independence leader is being sued for his role in an attempted secession in 2017.

Hailed by his supporters, the former Catalan regional president left the prison of Sassari, in Sardinia, where he was being held on Friday.

According to his Italian lawyer Agostinangelo Marras, he has been allowed to leave Italy pending an upcoming hearing which he plans to attend on October 4. The decision on his extradition could take “weeks”, said the lawyer earlier.

Visiting the island of La Palma, where a volcano erupted, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for a trial of the independence leader. Carles Puigdemont, who fled in 2017 to Belgium where he has lived since then, to escape prosecution, must “submit to Spanish justice”, he insisted.

58-year-old Mr. Puigdemont was arrested Thursday evening on his arrival at the airport of Alghero, a Sardinian city of Catalan culture where he was to participate in a cultural festival and meet with elected officials of the Italian island.

This arrest angered Catalan separatists, several hundred of whom demonstrated on Friday in front of the Italian consulate in Barcelona (north-eastern Spain). Other calls to demonstrate have been launched for Friday evening or Sunday.

“This is another example of Spain’s crackdown on Catalan politicians,” said Monica, 33, who was participating in Friday morning’s protest.

At the end of an emergency meeting of the regional government, the Catalan separatist president Pere Aragones, who will go to Sardinia, “demanded the immediate release of Carles Puigdemont”.

“Amnesty is the only way. Self-determination the only solution, ”he wrote Thursday evening on Twitter.

Accused of “sedition”

Carles Puigdemont is still claimed by the Spanish courts, which accuses him of “sedition” and “embezzlement of public funds”.

In March 2018, he was arrested for the first time at the request of Spain, in Germany this time. But he was released a few days later. MEP since 2019, the independentist benefited for a time from parliamentary immunity but the European Parliament lifted it on March 9 by a large majority. A measure confirmed on July 30 by the General Court of the European Union.

But the decision of the European Parliament has been the subject of an appeal whose final judgment on the merits by the EU justice must be pronounced “at a later date”. Mr Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, therefore considers that Parliament’s decision is “suspended”, as is the application of the arrest warrant, and that his client must still benefit from his immunity.

Towards a new crisis?

The detention of Mr. Puigdemont, which comes at a time of relative relaxation, poses the risk of a new crisis between Madrid and the separatists.

In June, the Sanchez government pardoned the nine pro-independence leaders who were arrested in 2017 and sentenced to prison in 2019, after a historic trial in which Mr. Puigdemont was largely absent.

The Spanish government resumed its negotiations with the regional separatist government on September 15, aimed at finding a solution to the separatist crisis in Catalonia.

On Friday, Mr. Sanchez “claimed” the importance of dialogue “today more than ever” while Mr. Aragones himself judged that this arrest “did not help to resolve the conflict” in Catalonia.

Catalonia’s attempted secession in October 2017 was one of the worst crises experienced by Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.

Despite the ban on justice, the regional government chaired by Mr. Puigdemont had organized a self-determination referendum punctuated by police violence and followed, a few weeks later, by a stillborn declaration of independence.

Madrid reacted by putting the region under control and arresting the main leaders of the independence movement who had not fled abroad.

Watch video

Leave a Comment