Monday 21 January 2019

German prosecutors seek extradition for Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont. Photo: AP
Carles Puigdemont. Photo: AP

Justin Huggler

German prosecutors yesterday lodged a formal application for the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to be extradited to Spain.

Mr Puigdemont has been held in Germany since being arrested last week on an international warrant issued by Spain.

A German court must now rule on whether he will have to return to Spain to face charges of rebellion over last year's referendum and declaration of independence.

Prosecutors told the Schleswig-Holstein higher regional court they have determined Mr Puigdemont's extradition is "justified" after "intensive examination" of the Spanish arrest warrant.

It will be for the court to decide whether it agrees with their assessment. Under EU extradition procedures the German judge will not consider the question of Mr Puigdemont's guilt, which is for a Spanish court to decide.

Instead he will determine only whether the offences Mr Puigdemont is accused of would be a crime under German law.

The case is expected to hinge on the main charge of "rebellion".

There is no direct equivalent in German law, but prosecutors told the court yesterday they believed it equated to the German crime of treason.

Mr Puigdemont was previously held in Belgium but Spanish prosecutors withdrew the arrest warrant when it appeared a Belgian court might rule that "rebellion" was not a crime in Belgian law.

A second charge of misusing public funds is likely to prove uncontroversial, but Spanish prosecutors have been reluctant to allow his extradition on that charge alone.

Under EU extradition agreements, Mr Puigdemont can only be tried on the charges he is extradited for.

Mr Puigdemont, who has been held in Neumünster prison since his arrest, at the weekend released a statement calling on his supporters to continue the struggle for Catalan independence and to remain non-violent.

"We will continue to work to build a free country, to ensure we have a society with less injustice, more equality, more solidarity and more fraternity with all the peoples of the world, starting with the peoples of Spain with whom we want to remain connected through respect and mutual recognition," he said in an audio recording handed to a German MP who visited him in prison.

He called on supporters to campaign "without violence, without insults and in an inclusive way, respecting people".

If the German court decides to approve his extradition, Mr Puigdemont has the right to appeal. Any extradition will also have to be approved by the German government, which can block it on political grounds.

Irish Independent

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