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German prosecutors call for Carles Puigdemont to be extradited to Spain

Ousted premier may vote by proxy in next session of Catalan parliament while he awaits a decision

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. AP

The public prosecutor in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has formally requested that the former Catalan regional premier, Carles Puigdemont, be extradited to Spain where he is wanted for rebellion and misuse of public funds.

German judges will now have to make a final decision on the matter. While an extradition is widely expected, questions linger over the nature of the charges against Puigdemont, who was arrested on March 25 just south of the border with Denmark, and placed in custody. On Tuesday, prosecutors asked to keep Puigdemont behind bars because they consider him a flight risk.

The police warned Puigdemont that there could be violence during the referendum, the note says

Under “double criminality” regulations, the state receiving the extradition request must recognize the same crimes in its own criminal code. Whereas the concept of misuse of public funds exists as such both in Spain and Germany, the Spanish notion of “rebellion” has no exact match, although legal experts had said it might be construed as the equivalent of “high treason” in Germany.  

On Tuesday, the Schleswig-Holstein prosecution services considered that the crimes of rebellion and high treason (articles 81 and 82 of the German criminal code) are “comparable” and that an exact coincidence is not necessary, Ana Carbajosa reports from Germany. As for the requirement of violence as proof of rebellious intent, the statement notes that the police warned Puigdemont there could be acts of violence during the illegal referendum of October 1, yet he still went ahead with it.

The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that whatever happens to Puigdemont now is a strictly legal matter, and an internal issue for Spain to resolve in accordance with its own Constitution and laws.

The release issued by the prosecution services in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein requesting Puigdemont's extradition.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium late last year to avoid arrest for his role in the unilateral declaration of independence passed by a slim separatist majority in the Catalan parliament.

Puigdemont will vote

In the meantime, Puigdemont will be allowed to vote as any other deputy at the next plenary session of the Catalan parliament, in theory at least. The separatist-controlled Mesa – the regional assembly’s speakers committee – has greenlighted a request for a proxy vote by the ousted premier while he awaits a decision regarding his extradition to Spain.

Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent (r) presides the meeting of the Mesa on Tuesday.
Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent (r) presides the meeting of the Mesa on Tuesday. EL PAÍS

The parliament’s legal services expressed doubts about this decision, but representatives of Together for Catalonia (JxCat) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) considered that Puigdemont’s situation is equivalent to that of other deputies currently in pre-trial detention in Spain in connection with a rebellion probe.

Elsa Artadi, a deputy for JxCat, will vote in Puigdemont’s name at a session scheduled for Thursday. Josep Costa, of JxCat, said that the legal services were only making “recommendations of prudence.”

The pro-unity Ciudadanos and Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) said they will ask the Mesa to reconsider its decision, and accused it of ignoring the assembly’s legal counsel. Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Ciudadanos, which was the most voted party at the December 21 elections, accused parliamentary speaker Roger Torrent, of ERC, of acting on Puigdemont’s orders rather than representing the chamber.

Another deputy who fled Spain following the unilateral independence declaration, Toni Comín, has not requested a proxy vote. If he were to do so, and his request was approved, JxCat and ERC would have enough votes to appoint a new regional leader in the second round of the investiture vote, which only requires a simple majority (the first round requires an absolute majority, which only the far-left CUP can provide).

If no new leader is found in under two months, Catalans will have to go to the polls again.

English version by Simon Hunter and Susana Urra.

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