Ex-Catalonia Leader Can Be Extradited, although Not on the Charge Spain Wants
MADRID — A German court ruled on Thursday in which Catalonia’s former leader, Carles Puigdemont, can be extradited to Spain, although only on fraud charges in addition to not for rebellion, the main charge he faced in Spain after Catalonia’s botched declaration of independence last year.
The decision is usually a setback for the Spanish judiciary, which had hoped the German court might allow Mr. Puigdemont to stand trial on a rebellion charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
Under the lesser charge of corruption related to the misuse of public money, Mr. Puigdemont could still be sentenced to prison. although if such financial crime sentences are two years or less, they are normally suspended in Spain for first-time offenders.
Mr. Puigdemont is usually accused of misusing public money to organize an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1, when he was president of the restive region. Two dozen some other Catalan politicians are also facing trial; some are being held in prison, while a handful of others are fighting extradition.
The German court’s decision is usually the latest twist in a complicated legal battle in which gained an international dimension last October, when Mr. Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain, alongside some some other members of his former cabinet.
They left shortly after Madrid used emergency constitutional powers to oust Mr. Puigdemont’s administration in addition to place Catalonia under direct rule. In March, while traveling by car via Finland to Belgium, Mr. Puigdemont was arrested by the German police on an international arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge.
In Thursday’s ruling, the German high court of the state of Schleswig-Holstein also ruled in which Mr. Puigdemont did not represent a flight risk in addition to therefore should not be taken into police custody before being sent back to Spain.
No date has been set for extradition, although the idea is usually likely to happen soon, according to Wiebke Hoffelner, a Schleswig-Holstein state prosecutor.
Mr. Puigdemont could take the difficult route of lodging an appeal before Germany’s constitutional court, if his lawyers can convince the court in which his basic human rights were violated. In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Puigdemont’s lawyers said they were considering how to proceed.
Pablo Llarena, the Spanish Supreme Court judge who is usually presiding over the trial against Mr. Puigdemont in addition to some other Catalan politicians, has said in which Spain’s judiciary could take the case to the European Court of Justice if Germany blocked Mr. Puigdemont’s extradition on the charges sought by Madrid. There was no immediate response via Judge Llarena to the German decision.
The court’s decision is usually in line that has a preliminary ruling in April, which found in which the rebellion charge could not be honored in Germany “because evidence of ‘violence’ is usually not present.” Violence is usually a component of the charge in Spain’s legal code.
Since then, however, Spain’s political landscape has changed considerably. A Socialist government took office in Madrid last month, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. His predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, had vehemently opposed Catalonia’s separatist movement, in addition to moved to block an effort to re-elect Mr. Puigdemont as the region’s leader in May.
Mr. Sánchez said on Thursday in which his government respected judicial decisions. in addition to although he did not weigh in on whether extradition on the rebellion charge should also have been allowed, he said at a news conference in which Spanish society “expected the people involved inside the events of the second half of 2017 to be judged by Spanish courts.” He added: “This kind of will happen.”
Writing on Twitter, Mr. Puigdemont welcomed the decision by the German court to strike down “the main lie of the state” by not recognizing the independence referendum as an act of rebellion.
in addition to Quim Torra, who leads a separatist coalition in which formed a completely new Catalan regional government in June, called the German ruling “great news.” He added: “Today the fictitious narrative of the Spanish state has fallen apart.”
On Monday, Mr. Torra visited Madrid to meet with Mr. Sánchez for the very first time, an encounter in which both men described as positive. The prime minister had previously vowed to “find a political solution to a political crisis” in addition to return to the negotiating table.
Mr. Sánchez, whose weak Socialist government relies in part on support via the Catalan parties, has also allowed the jailed Catalan politicians to be transferred via Madrid to prisons within their region.
In Barcelona, Mr. Torra is usually also in a fragile position: His unwieldy coalition of separatist parties appears to have run out of political options after the failed independence effort.
Mr. Puigdemont’s return to Spain in addition to a trial of the main Catalan separatist leaders could potentially prolong a dispute in which has raised broader concerns about the rule of law inside the European Union. On Thursday, some center-right politicians in Spain questioned the purpose of a European arrest warrant if courts in different countries did not apply the same criteria.
When Mr. Puigdemont arrived in Brussels last October, he said his goal was to make Spain’s territorial conflict an international issue in addition to bring Catalonia into “the institutional heart of Europe,” as Brussels is usually home to the most important institutions of the European Union.
His lawyers said in their statement on Thursday in which Mr. Puigdemont was only “being sought for criminal prosecution by the Spanish authorities because he enabled a democratic referendum to take place as instructed by his voters.”
“We are convinced in which Germany should not play any part inside the criminalization of democratic acts of This kind of kind,” they added, “in addition to in which the idea should stay out of the highly charged domestic disputes of some other states.”
Raphael Minder reported via Madrid, in addition to Christopher F. Schuetze via Berlin.