Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont dodges Spain's attempt to pursue him

Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan separatist wanted in Spain for leading a failed separatist movement in his region four years ago, left It...

Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan separatist wanted in Spain for leading a failed separatist movement in his region four years ago, left Italy on Monday, days after his brief detention and release by Italian authorities.

The arrest and release of Mr. Puigdemont sparked and then dashed the hopes of Spanish prosecutors, who once again saw another European country free him. Italian authorities acted on a European arrest warrant at the behest of Spain, which wants to try Puigdemont on charges of sedition after leading an unsuccessful attempt to establish a Independent Catalonia.

“He left for Brussels this morning,” said Puigdemont’s lawyer Agostinangelo Marras. Mr Puigdemont’s office in Brussels confirmed his departure from Italy and said he would attend a meeting in Brussels on Monday afternoon.

Mr Puigdemont, member of the European Parliament, lives in Brussels in complete freedom. The Belgian government refused to send him back to Spain for trial, and a German court let him go in 2018 after a brief detention there.

An Italian court is expected to start considering next week whether to execute the arrest warrant and send Mr Puigdemont to Spain to face criminal charges. Despite leaving the country, his lawyer said that if necessary, he would return to Italy for the court ruling.

Italian police arrested Mr. Puigdemont on Thursday as he landed at the airport to attend a Catalan folk festival on the island of Sardinia and meet with independence leaders there. But on Friday, an Italian court ordered his release, ruling that Mr Puigdemont’s status as a member of the European Parliament gave him the right to leave the country to attend meetings in Brussels.

On Friday afternoon, Mr. Puigdemont posted on Twitter a photo of him when he was released from prison in the city of Sassari.

“Spain never misses an opportunity to embarrass itself,” he wrote, adding the hashtag #NoSurrender.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Friday his government would respect court rulings, but added: “It is obvious that Puigdemont faces justice. “

Spain has on several occasions issued international money orders to try to prosecute Mr. Puigdemont. But the latest effort came at a critical time, just over a week after Mr Sánchez visited Barcelona, ​​the regional capital of Catalonia, to launch a new round of negotiations with separatist politicians aiming to end a land dispute that has been Spain’s biggest political puzzle for the past decade.

Italian legal experts have said that if Mr Puigdemont does not return to Italy for the hearing next week, his absence will almost certainly lead the judge to drop the proceedings.

“The court hearings could technically also continue,” said Stefano Maffei, a law professor specializing in extraditions and European arrest warrants at the University of Parma. “But for the European arrest warrant to be applicable, the wanted person must be in the country.”

Experts said it was unlikely that the Italian judicial authorities would hand over Mr Puigdemont because the charges against him in Spain could be considered to be politically motivated, and because his legal status still holds. the subject of debate.

The Italian court said Mr Puigdemont’s immunity across Europe, granted by his election to the European Parliament in 2019, was still intact. In March, the same European Parliament withdrew his immunity, as requested by the Spanish authorities, for the alleged offense of sedition.

A European court in July rejected Mr Puigdemont’s request to restore his immunity, but said he was still free to travel to attend parliament meetings.

Lawyers defending Mr Puigdemont said Spain’s arrest warrant was suspended before his trip to Italy. But the Italian judges have ruled it was still valid.

Italy, like most Western European countries, has legislation that protects foreigners in its territory who would face politically charged accusations in their country of origin, such as those facing Mr. Puigdemont. . A similar principle in France has enabled a number of Italian terrorists to live there freely for decades, only to be arrested earlier this year. None of them have yet returned to Italy.

Originally from Brussels, Mr. Puigdemont has remained very influential in Catalan politics.

Catalan leaders who supported the 2017 independence bid and remained in Spain to stand trial were found guilty and sentenced to long prison terms, but Mr Sánchez pardoned them. His government said there could be no amnesty for those like Mr. Puigdemont, who fled the country, until they were tried.

Raphael Minder contributed reporting from Madrid.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont dodges Spain's attempt to pursue him
Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont dodges Spain's attempt to pursue him
Newsrust - US Top News
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