Catalan Separatist Chief Loses Immunity, Clearing Means for Spain’s Extradition Bid

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MADRID — The European Parliament has stripped the immunity of Carles Puigdemont, the previous separatist chief of Catalonia, clearing the best way for Spain to make a recent try and extradite him from Belgium and take a look at him on sedition expenses.

The European Parliament stated on Tuesday {that a} majority of its members had voted a day earlier in a secret poll to take away the immunity of Mr. Puigdemont and two different Catalan members of the meeting who face expenses in Spain associated to a botched try and declare Catalonia’s independence in 2017. Spain’s judiciary has charged that their bid was unconstitutional.

The vote on Monday ended a prolonged battle by Mr. Puigdemont and his colleagues to make use of their safety as elected members of the European meeting to protect them from prosecution in Spain. Now it’s as much as the Belgian judiciary to rule on whether or not Mr. Puigdemont must be despatched again to the Spanish capital, Madrid, to face trial.

“It’s a unhappy day for the European Parliament,” Mr. Puigdemont stated. “We have now misplaced our immunity, however the European Parliament has misplaced greater than that and in consequence, European democracy too,” he stated, including that this was “a transparent case of political prosecution.”

The Spanish authorities welcomed the vote.

“The issues of Catalonia won’t be solved in Europe or by Europe. They need to be solved in Spain by bringing all Catalan forces across the desk,” stated the international minister, Arancha González Laya. The vote confirmed that the European Parliament had “respect for the work of the judiciary in our nation,” she added.

The European Parliament’s choice comes solely weeks after regional elections in Catalonia that elevated the vast majority of pro-independence events within the regional Parliament. Separatist politicians have held management since 2015, however the secessionist battle has break up Catalan society whereas additionally remaining a extremely contentious problem in nationwide politics.

Mr. Puigdemont and a few of his colleagues have been in Brussels since October 2017, shortly after the Spanish central authorities ousted his regional authorities for holding a referendum that Spanish courts had dominated unlawful after which declaring Catalonia’s independence.

Through the previous three years, Mr. Puigdemont has efficiently fought off makes an attempt to extradite him each from Belgium and Germany, the place he was briefly detained throughout a visit.

In January, judges in Belgium additionally rejected a request to extradite one other former member of Catalonia’s regional authorities, Lluis Puig, who’s dealing with comparable expenses in Spain. The Belgian court docket argued that the Spanish Supreme Courtroom didn’t have the authorized authority to problem an arrest warrant towards Mr. Puig, including that he must be tried in a regional court docket.

A part of Mr. Puigdemont’s former authorities, nevertheless, stayed in Spain and stood trial earlier than the nation’s Supreme Courtroom. 9 Catalans obtained jail sentences after they have been convicted of crimes together with sedition and misuse of public funds.

One former Catalan chief, Oriol Junqueras, was additionally barred by Spain’s highest court docket from taking his seat within the European Parliament. Each he and Mr. Puigdemont have been elected to the meeting in 2019.

The European Parliament’s vote will enable a Spanish decide to reactivate a European arrest warrant towards Mr. Puigdemont that was suspended in early 2020, when Mr. Puigdemont and his colleagues took their seats within the European meeting.

In 2019, the European Parliament stripped the immunity of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founding father of the far-right Nationwide Entrance occasion in France. It’s nonetheless reviewing the case of Ioannis Lagos, who was sentenced in Greece final yr for his actions with the far-right Golden Daybreak occasion. The Greek authorities considers Golden Daybreak a felony group.

The Catalan case has divided politicians in Brussels, a lot of them detest to set a precedent of lawmakers being tried over political exercise. The removing of Mr. Puigdemont’s immunity was authorized by three-fifths of the members of the European Parliament.

It might take months for Belgian courts to rule on Spain’s newest try and extradite Mr. Puigdemont and the 2 different Catalan leaders, Antoni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.

The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Workplace is inspecting the opportunity of renewing authorized proceedings in Belgium, a spokeswoman for the workplace stated.

Ought to the Belgian courts block the extradition request, the Catalans would proceed to take a seat within the European Parliament, however with out particular immunity rights.

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