Catalan separatist leader released from prison in Sardinia can travel
Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont left a prison in Sardinia on Friday after a judge ruled he could be released pending an October 4 hearing on his extradition to Spain, where the political brand is wanted for sedition.
Puigdemont, the former president of the Spanish region of Catalonia and member of the European Union’s parliament, left Sassari prison a day after his arrest by police. He had been invited to attend a Catalan cultural event and a meeting of Sardinian independence supporters on the Mediterranean island.
“Spain never misses the opportunity to be ridiculous. #NoSurrender, ”Puigdemont tweeted after his release from prison. Harassed by reporters outside the gates, he said of his less than 24 hours behind bars: “Alright, no problem. The police and prison guards were very professional, very serious people.
The judge who authorized his release decided a few hours earlier that Puigdemont was free to travel without restrictions.
Judge Plinia Clara Azzena told The Associated Press by telephone from the Sassari courthouse that although she found her arrest valid, based on the documents she reviewed, “we do not have it. in any way restricted. He can travel ”if he wants to.
Azzena and two other judges will hold a hearing on October 4 to rule on the extradition.
Earlier, Puigdemont’s Italian lawyer Agostinangelo Marras told reporters that when the judge at the brief hearing asked his client if he wanted to visit Spain, Puigdemont replied “no”.
Puigdemont and a number of his separatist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing they would be arrested after holding a referendum on Catalonia’s independence that the Spanish courts and government declared illegal.
He was taken into custody on Thursday evening upon his arrival at Alghero airport in Sardinia. Sardinia has strong Catalan cultural roots and its own independence movement. Alghero, a town on the northwest coast of the island, hosts the traditional Catalan folk festival which Puigdemont is planning to attend.
“Freedom, freedom”, shouted the demonstrators in front of the courthouse of Sassari. They held signs in a Sardinian dialect proclaiming: “Democracy, the Sardinian nation supports the Catalan nation”, and held the flags of Sardinia and Catalonia.
Although Puigdemont currently holds a seat in the European Parliament, this legislature deprived him of his parliamentary immunity.
Puigdemont’s detention has sparked political turmoil in Spain, where the subject of Catalan independence has been a matter of deep division for decades. Separatists demanded his release and scheduled street protests, while center-right parties said he should be brought to justice.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Friday during an official visit to the Canary Islands that he respected “all legal proceedings opened in Spain, Europe and, in this case, Italy”.
Sánchez, who recently opened direct talks with Catalan regional leaders, said “dialogue is the only way to bring Catalans who have different opinions together and to bring Catalans together with the rest of Spain”.
Just under half of Catalans want to break with Spain, polls show. Most Spaniards don’t want Catalonia to gain independence.
At the heart of the immediate legal question was whether the warrant issued by Spain requesting the arrest of Puigdemont is valid. Gonzalo Boye, his lawyer, insisted that the warrant issued in 2019 which served as the basis for the Italian authorities to detain him has been suspended.
Boye told Spanish radio SER: “We have to see if the arrest warrant is enforceable. It will be up to the judicial authorities ”in Italy.
The Spanish Supreme Court judge in charge of the case, Pablo Llarena, sent a letter to the European Union Agency for Cooperation in Criminal Justice Matters stating that the arrest warrant is “in force and in force. awaiting the capture of those accused of rebellion ”.
Ultimately, it would be up to the Italian Ministry of Justice to approve or deny the extradition. The Spanish Supreme Court, which issued the European arrest warrant, made no official comment.
This is not the first time that Spanish courts have tried to detain Puigdemont abroad. After a Belgian court refused to return him in 2017, the following year he was arrested in Germany, but a court also refused to extradite him.
Nine Catalan separatists were subsequently sentenced to prison terms for their role in the 2017 referendum, ranging from nine to 13 years. They were pardoned in July, but not Puigdemont, who fled.
Puigdemont’s arrest in Italy at the behest of Spain has sparked the anger of some Italian politicians, including Democratic Party MP Romina Mura, who is Sardinian.
“Arresting a representative of the Catalan people who sits in the European Parliament, who travels to exercise his functions and in addition to arrest him in Sardinia in a town of Catalan tradition and culture like Alghero, is a relevant political act, even if it s ‘This is a judicial act,’ Mura said.
Alghero’s historical and cultural ties with Catalonia date back to the 14th century, when a Catalan-Aragonese force won a naval battle off the Sardinian coast and the force commander triumphantly entered the city on the coast. northwest of Sardinia.
About 20% of the inhabitants of Alghero speak a Sardinian dialect derived from the Catalan language and recognized by both the Italian national government and the regional government of the island.