Sunday 22 July 2018

Puigdemont's arrest sparks more violence in Catalonia

Police in Barcelona clash with protesters after the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Germany. Photo: AP
Police in Barcelona clash with protesters after the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Germany. Photo: AP

Hannah Strange

The detention of Carles Puigdemont in Germany opened a fresh chapter in the Catalan independence drive yesterday, as galvanised secessionists renewed their bid to return the ousted leader to the presidency.

As Mr Puigdemont was remanded to a German prison, independence parties called for an urgent parliamentary session to push through a reform - allowing for his long-distance inauguration, in defiance of a ban on such a move by Spain's constitutional court.

Mr Puigdemont yesterday appeared in court in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where he was detained by police on Sunday and later sent to Neumunster prison.

The judge ruled he must remain in custody while Spain's extradition request is considered - a process which must be completed within 60 days.

Debate meanwhile raged at home and across Europe over Spain's crackdown on independence leaders, which saw 13 formally charged with rebellion and other crimes last Friday.

Madrid's supreme court immediately issued international arrest warrants for the seven politicians who have fled Spain, prompting Mr Puigdemont's detention. The former president left Barcelona for Brussels in late October to avoid arrest after the authorities removed his government and imposed direct rule in response to a banned referendum and a declaration of independence.

He travelled to Finland last week to speak at an event but left on Saturday to return to Belgium, only to be seized by German police after crossing the border from Denmark in an operation involving Spanish intelligence agents.

The arrests sparked renewed anger on streets in Catalonia, with more than 60,000 protesters flooding the centre of Barcelona on Sunday night and clashes with riot police leaving almost 100 people injured.

After meeting with independence parties, Roger Torrent, the Catalan speaker, tabled a special session for tomorrow morning to plot a path to an inauguration.

In Scotland, where authorities have received an extradition request for Clara Ponsati, one of the cabinet members in exile, the SNP said it would complain to the Council of Europe over the cases. UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said only that they supported the rule of law in Spain.

Irish Independent

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