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EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of immunity

  • July 31, 2021

The EU General Court in Luxembourg on Friday upheld a decision by the European Parliament to strip former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and two of his separatist allies of legal immunity. 

The move overturned a June ruling that had allowed the three EU lawmakers to provisionally regain legal protection.

What does the ruling mean?

The decision means Puigdemont, along with former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, could be extradited to Spain to face sedition charges.

The three separatists, who are current members of the European Parliament, fled Spain in 2017 after Catalonia held an independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by the central Spanish government. Puigdemont and his two allies now reside in Belgium.

The trio argued in a May filing to the court that they could face imminent arrest if stripped of their immunity, which would impede them from carrying out their elected duties. 

Trio unlikely to be arrested, court says

The general court shot down this argument and said they were unlikely to be arrested.

“There is no reason to consider that the Belgian judicial authorities or that the authorities of another Member State could execute the European arrest warrants issued against the deputies and could hand them over to the Spanish authorities,” the court said.

At the same time, it said the trio could reintroduce their request for immunity if it becomes clear that they will be arrested and sent back to Spain.

Madrid has sought to have Puigdemont returned for trial but has failed to persuade Belgian authorities to extradite him.

What’s the current relationship between Madrid and Catalonia? 

Although Puigdemont and the two other separatists are still wanted on sedition charges, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pardoned nine imprisoned Catalan separatists in June as a goodwill gesture.

Sanchez also met with Catalonia head Pere Aragones in June for negotiations on the conflict. The two sides have agreed to hold further talks in the second half of September.

Although Aragones wants the central government to greenlight an independence vote in Catalonia, Sanchez said his party will never allow such a referendum to happen. 

The 2017 independence referendum caused a constitutional crisis in Spain, with then-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy revoking Catalonia’s autonomy and sending in police.

wd/nm (AP, AFP, dpa)

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