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Government arranges defense lawyer for judge after former Catalan premier files lawsuit

Carles Puigdemont is suing magistrate Pablo Llarena for the symbolic amount of one euro, accusing him of impartiality and violating his rights

Puigdemont contra Llarena
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

The Spanish government has agreed to hire the services of a private Belgian law firm to defend Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena, who is the object of a civil lawsuit that has been filed in Belgium by former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont.

Llarena has been heading up the main judicial probe into the actions of Puigdemont and other pro-independence politicians last year, when the regional government held an illegal referendum on Catalonia’s secession from Spain, before unilaterally declaring independence in parliament.

The lawsuit says that Spain is “next to Kazakhstan among delinquent states that refuse to comply with the principles that govern universal fundamental rights”

Puigdemont and several of his colleagues were ousted from their roles and fled Spain, and are still wanted for extradition. Other pro-independence leaders and politicians, meanwhile, were arrested and are currently in pre-trial custody without bail, a decision taken by the Spanish courts on the suspicions that they would reoffend or indeed flee the country as their colleagues had.

The lawsuit that Puigdemont and his lawyers have filed against the magistrate accuses Llarena of being impartial and states that Spain is “next to Kazakhstan among delinquent states that refuse to comply with the principles that govern universal fundamental rights.”

Llarena will have to travel to Belgium to appear in court on September 4. Puigdemont is demanding a symbolic payment of one euro from the judge should he win the case.

The lawsuit refers to comments made by Llarena about the Catalan independence drive during public conferences, but also runs through the judicial decisions taken that, he argues, could have violated his fundamental rights, such as that of political participation.

Spanish judges and magistrates consulted by this newspaper said that the lawsuit should not be accepted by the Belgian judge in charge of the case, given the “lack of jurisdiction.” The magistrate in question will question Llarena and the accusation on September 4, and make a decision based on his findings.

Former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont.
Former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont. AFP

The Spanish government had initially resisted arranging a defense lawyer for Llarena, given the fact that some of the comments in question had been made at conferences, and as such were not part of his official duties. But Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has since stated that “this is not a private question, it’s a question for the state.”

Lawyers for Puigdemont stated on Tuesday that they would be correcting a translation error contained within the lawsuit, which misquoted Judge Llarena and made it sound as if he was questioning the presumption of innocence of the pro-independence leader.

The Spanish government had initially resisted arranging a defense lawyer for Judge Llarena

The lawsuit makes reference to a statement made by Llarena in public over the question of whether or not the jailed pro-independence leaders are “political prisoners.” He used the phrase: “If this were the case…,” which was translated into French as: “Given that this was the case,” thus giving the impression that the judge was saying that the politicians had indeed committed the crimes in question.

The mistake was noticed by a Spanish translator, who posted it on Twitter, where it was soon picked up by a number of media outlets. Puigdemont’s lawyers have blamed the error on the translator, and have played down the importance of the correction in terms of the accusations contained within the lawsuit.

Based on reporting by Elsa García de Blas, Pere Ríos, Jesús García and Miguel González. English version by Simon Hunter.

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