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Spain hands Germany new proof to support rebellion charge against Puigdemont

Prosecutors met in The Hague to exchange evidence that includes videos showing episodes of violence

Carles Puigdemont (C) with supporters in Berlin following his release from custody.
Carles Puigdemont (C) with supporters in Berlin following his release from custody. GTRES

Spanish and German prosecutors met on Thursday in the Dutch city of The Hague, where the former handed over new evidence to support the charge of rebellion against former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont.

The meeting took place on Thursday morning at the headquarters of Eurojust, the EU agency in charge of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, legal sources have confirmed.

If Puigdemont cannot be tried for rebellion in Spain, it will create a paradoxical situation

Puigdemont was detained in Germany on March 25 on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, and held in custody for 12 days. A court there will now determine the conditions of his extradition to Spain on the basis of whether the crimes he is accused of back home would also constitute crimes in Germany.

Although German prosecutors supported the rebellion charge in their accusation of April 3, a three-judge panel in the Schleswig-Holstein region has dismissed it, arguing that no violence was employed during the secessionist bid in Catalonia. If this view prospers, the ousted leader could only be tried in Spain for misuse of public funds to finance the independence push. The German judges have requested additional proof of this latter charge.

The situation has underscored the difficulties of implementing the European arrest warrant, a system designed to streamline extradition processes between countries, in high-profile cases such as this one. Spain argues that it is not up to the German court – which is hierarchically below the Spanish Supreme Court, in charge of the probe – to conduct a whole new inquiry into the case.

The situation has underscored the difficulties of implementing the European arrest warrant

Spanish prosecutors on Thursday handed their colleagues new supporting evidence, including several videos showing episodes of violence in connection with the independence push. The latter will show this material to the judges in the hopes that it will make them reconsider their dismissal of the rebellion charge.

The prosecution service in Schleswig-Holstein has sided with its Spanish counterparts on this issue, but Germany’s justice minister, Katarina Barley, recently said in public that if Spanish courts cannot prove that Puigdemont misused public funds, “then Puigdemont will be a free man in a free country – namely in Germany.” The German government quickly issued a statement recalling the minister’s words, and adding that the matter must be resolved within Spain’s legal and constitutional framework.

If the German court persists in ruling out the rebellion charge, Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena may turn to the EU Court of Justice and ask whether Germany has properly applied European arrest warrant regulations.

If Puigdemont cannot be tried for rebellion in Spain, it will create a paradoxical situation where Catalan separatist leaders who stayed home to face the legal consequences of their actions – including Puigdemont’s own deputy Oriol Junqueras – will be facing harsher punishment than those who fled to other countries.

English version by Susana Urra.