Spain’s top court rejects new bid to arrest exiled Catalan ex-president

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont (C) during a debate at The Political Science Department at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denamrk, 22 January 2018. [Ricardo Ramirez/EPA]

The Spanish Supreme Court dismissed on Monday (22 January) a request by top Spanish prosecutors to reactivate a European arrest warrant for the ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who has been in exile since November. EURACTIV’S partner EFE reports.

Puigdemont, wanted by the Spanish authorities on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in relation to his role in Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum, arrived in the Danish capital early on Monday, where he was to attend a private debate organised by the University of Copenhagen’s Political Science department.

Sources from Spain’s state prosecutor’s office said Pablo Llarena, the Supreme Court judge leading the sedition investigation against Puigdemont, was officially requested to reinstate a European arrest warrant in a bid to bring the sacked former president of Catalonia back to Spain in order to face charges. A previous European arrest warrant was retracted by Llarena on 5 December 2017.

In a statement, Llarena said he found the request reasonable, but that ultimately there were nuances in the case that meant that such a warrant should be postponed for now.

On Sunday, the state prosecutor’s office warned that if Puigdemont made the decision to travel to Denmark, it would “immediately request that the investigating magistrate at the Supreme Court proceed with the activation of the European warrant for his arrest and surrender”.

Puigdemont has been staying in Belgium for three months – along with four other members of his defunct government – to avoid appearing before the Spanish National Court for the investigation regarding his leading role in Catalonia’s process of secession, which ended with a unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October.

A Spanish arrest warrant for Puigdemont remained in place.

Puigdemont was deposed by the Spanish government as it took immediate constitutional action to rescind the Catalan independence bid. Several other leading figures in that movement, including former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, remained in pretrial detention in Madrid where they faced the same charges.

Pro-independence parties in the region won an absolute majority of seats in the new regional elections held on 21 December.  It remains unclear if the election winners could legally propose Puigdemont as leader again, as he is in exile and would be arrested the moment he arrived in Spain.

Pro-independence parties win Catalan elections

Pro-independence parties won an absolute majority of seats during regional elections held in Catalonia on Thursday (21 December), despite the ‘unionist’ party Ciudadanos coming on top.

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