New blow for Spanish repression: Germany rejects bid to imprison former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont

The German courts’ decision marks the latest setback in Spain’s attempt to prosecute exiled Catalan politicians

SPANISH ATTEMPTS to extradite former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont have faced a major roadblock, as the German court overseeing the case has turned down requests from the prosecution that Puigdemont be incarcerated in pretrial prison while his European Arrest Warrant is assessed.

The general prosecutor repeated his appeal to the Schleswig-Holstein court that Puigdemont be incarcerated due to an “increased flight risk”, justifying the new petition by citing “new information” on the case received from Spanish authorities. Despite this, the court did not recognise any such risk, and will continue to assess the validity of the European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain before deciding whether to extradite Puigdemont.

On 22 May, the general prosecutor’s office announced that it was preparing a fresh extradition request for Puigdemont, who is charged with ‘rebellion’ under Spanish law. The prosecutor reportedly characterised this charge as being equivalent to the German crimes of ‘high treason’ and ‘breach of the public peace’. However, the German court rejected the charge of rebellion in April, citing a lack of violence in relation to Puigdemont’s alleged crimes.

The German decision follows a similar frustration of Spanish efforts earlier this month, when a Belgian court rejected the extradition of deposed Catalan ministers Lluís Puig, Toni Comín and Meritxell Serret, after both prosecution and defence agreed that Spain’s extradition request contained “procedural defects” and “irregularities.”

READ MORE: Precedent set for Clara Ponsati case as Belgium dismisses arrest warrant for Catalan ministers

The latest developments in Germany would appear to add credence to former culture minister Puig’s assertion that the Belgian decision could have a “multiplying” effect on the ongoing cases of other exiled Catalan politicians, such as those of Puigdemont and St Andrews academic Clara Ponsati in Scotland, who’s next preliminary hearings are 12 June and 5 July, with a full hearing scheduled for 30 July.

Despite its lack of progress in securing cooperation from the legal systems of other nations, Spain has not softened its punitive use of Spanish law against pro-independence Catalan political figures. On 22 May, it was announced that Spain’s Constitutional Court had refused to free deposed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras and grassroots leader Jordi Sànchez, who remain pre-emptively imprisoned for their role in Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum.

Meanwhile, the pro-independence Catalan Government of new president Quim Torra has assumed a defiant posture, having nominated several cabinet ministers that are currently imprisoned or in exile. In consequence, Spain has blocked the ministers’ reinstatement, prompting Torra to seek legal advice against the Spanish Government.

Further legal controversy was introduced by the unionist party Ciudadanos, who have declared that they will challenge the legitimacy of Torra’s inauguration last week, on the grounds that the new Catalan president made no reference to the Spanish constitution or king during his oath of office.

Picture courtesy of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya