Saturday

23rd Nov 2019

Germany's Puigdemont release puts Spanish court in bind

  • Last week, supporters of Puigdemont in Barcelona called for his release in a protest (Photo: Assemblea.cat)

The German ruling not to extradite Catalan ex-president Carles Puigdemont to Spain will have major ramifications for the further course of Spain's legal action against the organisers of the independence referendum.

By deciding that Puigdemont cannot be extradited on the charges of 'rebellion' – and to be released on bail on Friday morning – the German court in the state of Schleswig-Holstein on Thursday (5 April) has effectively intervened in the legal affairs of a fellow EU country.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Puigdemont still can be extradited to Spain under a European arrest warrant, but only on lesser charges of embezzlement – the issue here is whether his government used state funding to organise the referendum, which had been declared illegal beforehand by Spain's highest court.

But Puigdemont is not the only Catalan politician wanted or apprehended by Madrid.

As the Spanish newspaper El Pais pointed out on Friday, the German decision puts Spain's Supreme Court in a bind.

If the court does manage to have Puigdemont extradited to Spain from Germany, it can then only prosecute Puigdemont on the lesser charges.

Moreover, the Supreme Court would find it difficult to argue that other Catalan politicians should be tried for rebellion, if Puigdemont was not.

The newspaper cited an anonymous court source saying that this would be unfair.

"Why should Puigdemont benefit from his escape and the others imprisoned in Spain be charged with not only embezzlement, but also the crime of rebellion?" the source said.

Complaints could also be heard from Madrid about the fact that a German court "equivalent to provincial court" was in charge of the decision – but that is ignoring the fact that unlike Spain, Germany is a federal country, where its 16 states have far-reaching powers.

The Schleswig-Holstein court decided that Puigdemont could not be extradited on the charges of rebellion, because his actions would not be judged similarly in Germany. The German constitution does have the crime of high treason, but because there was no evidence that Puigdemont caused violence, the court argued, this did not apply.

Although the European Union has freedom of movement, much related to legal affairs is still done at the national level – which can lead to conflicting interpretations like in the Puigdemont case.

The Catalan ex-leader fled the Spanish region after the regional parliament declared its independence from Spain, following the referendum marred by police violence but 'won' by the separatists.

Limited flight risk

Several Catalan separatists are facing trial in Spain, while others have left the country in self-imposed exile. Some reside in Scotland, others in Belgium.

On Thursday, Belgian authorities informed three former Catalan ministers - Antoni Comín, Lluís Maria Puig, and Meritxell Serret – of the European arrest warrant against them. They had willingly reported to a court in Brussels for an interrogation, and were released on bail.

Puigdemont meanwhile is expected on Friday morning to be released, if a bail sum of €75,000 is paid. The German court said flight risk was limited after it had decided that extradition on the charges of rebellion had been dismissed.

If the Germans do decide that Puigdemont should be extradited to Spain, he could face up to twelve years in prison over the embezzlement charges.

Catalan separatists mull 'symbolic' presidency

Catalan separatists leaders are discussing a plan that would allow their exiled leader keep influence in the region - even if he cannot be elected president of the government.

Puigdemont ghost hangs over Catalan vote

The Catalan parliament is due to elect the president of the regional government, amid uncertainties over the whereabouts and strategy of the self-exiled separatist leader.

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

News in Brief

  1. UK misses UN deadline to return Chagos Islands
  2. PM: Greece will 'shut door' to migrants without rights
  3. CDU leader offers to quit if party doesn't back her
  4. Serbian president confirms Russia spy video
  5. UK to repatriate 'Islamic State' orphans
  6. Man arrested over Maltese journalist murder free on bail
  7. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria isolated, report says
  8. WHO: 80 percent of adolescents don't exercise enough

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us