Carles Puigdemont: court rejects new bid to arrest Catalan ex-president

Supreme court turns down request from Spanish prosecutors to reactivate international warrant

Spain’s supreme court has rejected a request from prosecutors to reactivate the international arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont after the deposed Catalan president flew to Denmark from Belgium to speak at a conference on Monday.

Puigdemont, who fled Spain at the end of October after being sacked by the Madrid government, is facing possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over his role in the push to split Catalonia from Spain. He will be arrested the moment he sets foot on Spanish soil.

The decision to reactivate the arrest warrant was postponed until the Catalan parliament is restored to normal activity, the court said in a statement on Monday.

Speaking in Brussels, Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, said: “Mr Puigdemont is subject to a process in Spain. Outside, for the moment, his movements are free within the European Union, but we’ll see.”

The warrant was dropped in December over discrepancies between Belgian and Spanish law that would limit the charges under which Puigdemont could be extradited and therefore be charged with on his return.

Puigdemont is trying to return as Catalonia’s president after December’s snap election, in which secessionist parties retained their majority in the regional parliament.

Roger Torrent, the newly elected speaker of the Catalan parliament, on Monday formally proposed Puigdemont as the candidate to form a government.

Torrent, a member of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party, acknowledged Puigdemont’s legal predicament but said the former president was a legitimate candidate.

He also said he had written to the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, to ask for a meeting to discuss what he termed the “abnormal situation” in the regional parliament.

Puigdemont hopes to be sworn in via videolink or by using one of his MPs to read his candidate speech when the regional parliament begins a debate to choose its new leader at the end of January.

However, Rajoy has said Puigdemont must attend the investiture debates in person.

“It’s absurd that someone may intend to be a candidate to be the head of the regional government while being in Brussels and running away from justice,” Rajoy said last week.

“This is no longer just a judicial and political problem. This a problem of pure common sense.”

The Spanish government assumed control of Catalonia on 27 October after Puigdemont’s government held an illegal referendum and the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence, plunging Spain into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago.


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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