A court in the northern German state of Schleswig Holstein has decided today to extradite former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont to Spain. However, the court will do so only on the charges of misuse of public funds that the Spanish authorities have filed against him, and not for the crime of rebellion. This means that he can only be tried on the former charge once he is back in Spain.
The court has not decided to impose any precautionary measures on Puigdemont, meaning that he remains a free man.
Puigdemont was only aiming for a referendum to be held. He was not the inciter of violence
Statement from the German court
The German court has rejected the arguments of Spanish High Court Judge Pablo Llarena, who has been trying to see Puigdemont extradited to face charges of rebellion. Other Catalan politicians are facing the same charge, such as Oriol Junqueras, the former leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and one-time deputy regional premier. The offense is similar to high treason under German law. Junqueras, along with five other figures from the pro-independence drive, has been in pre-trial custody since November.
“The accusation of misuse of public funds is acceptable, extradition for rebellion is not acceptable,” the German court stated in a press release.
Puigdemont has been in Germany after fleeing Spain for Belgium last year in the wake of the unilateral declaration of independence passed by the Catalan regional government. He and a number of his former colleagues are facing charges for their role in the pro-independence drive, which reached its peak last year with an illegal referendum on secession from Spain and the aforementioned declaration. Several other politicians have also fled Spain, heading to countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland.
This shows once more the deception and lies of a court case that should never have been started
Catalan premier Quim Torra
Since his arrest in Germany, Spain has been trying to see Puigdemont extradited. But the process has been delayed given the German court’s doubts over an equivalent to rebellion under German law – a requirement for him to be handed over to Spain on that charge – and the evidence that had been supplied by the Spanish courts to back the charges.
“The accusations against Puigdemont are not equivalent to a crime of high treason and the disturbance of public order under German law,” the statement from the German court added. “The scale of the violence needed for high treason was not reached during the disturbances.” The text continues: “Puigdemont was only aiming for a referendum to be held [...] He was not the inciter of violence.”
The decision of the German court is not final, and sources from Puigdemont’s legal team have told EL PAÍS that they are planning to appeal the decision to extradite him for misuse of funds at the country’s Constitutional Court.
“We have demolished the biggest lie propagated by the [Spanish] state,” Puigdemont wrote today on Twitter. “The German justice system denies that the October 1 referendum was rebellion. Every minute that our colleagues spend in jail is a minute of shame and injustice. We will fight until the end, and we will win!”
The current Catalan regional premier, Quim Torra, a hard-line supporter of Catalan independence, was quick to voice his reaction to the news via Twitter. “It shows once more the deception and lies of a court case that should never have been started,” he wrote. “It will be in Europe where we win.”
This week saw Pablo Llarena, the High Court judge in charge of the cases against the pro-independence figures, wind up the investigative phase of the probe. The 18 suspects are now a step away from going to trial, which is likely to be held at the end of this year or the start of the next. Before he closed this part of the proceedings, he ordered Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, and the four other politicians who are being held in pre-trial custody (Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez) to be suspended from their roles as deputies in the Catalan parliament.
English version by Simon Hunter.