Puigdemont draws closer to return to Catalonia after Italy suspended case
SASSARI, Italy, October 4 (Reuters) – Self-exiled Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont said on Monday he felt closer to returning to the northeastern region of Spain after an Italian court suspended a case concerning Spain’s latest extradition request.
A court in Sardinia has said its suspension is pending a ruling from the European Union Court of Justice on Puigdemont, its legal team has said. It was a blow to the Spanish Supreme Court, which had requested his extradition to face charges of sedition linked to the failure of Catalonia’s candidacy for independence in 2017.
“After each victory we are closer (to returning to Catalonia)… hope it doesn’t take much longer,” Puigdemont said at a press conference in Alghero hours after his court appearance, urging Spain to suspend its arrest warrant. at four years after having fled the country.
“It is time to tell Spain that it is tired of following a path which does not give it any positive results, which complicates the political resolution of a political conflict,” he said, referring to the legal battles he has won so far in Germany, Belgium and now Italy.
Puigdemont led the regional government of Catalonia at the time of an independence plebiscite that Spanish courts have called illegal.
Italian police arrested the 58-year-old man on September 23 after he visited the island for a Catalan folk festival. Read more
They were acting under a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, which asked Italy to extradite Puigdemont.
A judge released Puigdemont less than 24 hours later and allowed him to leave Italy, but set Monday’s hearing to decide the legality of the warrant. Read more
Lawyers for Puigdemont, who has been a member of the European Parliament since 2019, argued that there was no reason to arrest him and that he should be free until the Court of Justice of the Union European Union resolves their appeal against parliament’s decision to lift its immunity in March.
Lawyer Agostinangelo Marras told reporters outside the courthouse – where a few dozen supporters waved Catalan and Sardinian flags and chanted “freedom” and “independence” – Puigdemont could move around freely.
The Court of Justice of the European Union announced on Friday that it had received a new request from its lawyers to take “interim measures” so that Puigdemont can recover its immunity. It is not immediately clear how long a decision will take.
Puigdemont has been living in voluntary exile in Belgium since late 2017 after the Catalan parliament issued a short-lived declaration of independence following the unauthorized referendum and the Spanish government took control of the regional government for seven months.
The Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine other Catalan separatist leaders to heavy prison terms in 2019 for their role in the 2017 attempted break with Spain. They were pardoned in June. Read more
Reporting by Guglielmo Mangiapane and Alex Fraser in Sassari and Joan Faus in Barcelona; Additional reporting by Angelo Amante in Rome; Writing by Joan Faus; Editing by Inti Landauro, Clara-Laeila Laudette, Andrew Heavens and Alison Williams
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