The General Court of the European Union (TGUE) withdrew the parliamentary immunity of the pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday, July 5. The ruling could pave the way for him to finally be extradited to Spain, where he has been wanted by the authorities for six years and faces charges of disobedience and embezzlement. The European Justice also stripped the separatist MEPs Clara Ponstí and Toni Comín of their immunity. All will file an appeal.
Hard blow for the former president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, in exile since 2017.
After years of victories for the Catalan separatist leader in European courts and failed attempts by the Spanish authorities to extradite him during his stays in Germany, Belgium and Italy, the General Court of the European Union (TGUE) stripped him of his immunity as an MEP, a position he has held since 2019.
The Court based in Luxembourg thus rejected the appeal presented by Puigdemont against the decisions of the European Parliament to waive his immunity. The European Justice also withdrew this exemption for the separatist MEPs Clara Ponstí and Toni Comín.
“Parliament cannot adopt decisions in defense of immunity that produce binding legal effects before the Spanish judicial authorities,” said the ruling.
VIDEOS | The General Court of the European Union on Wednesday withdrew the parliamentary immunity of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and the other two JxCAT MEPs, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí. pic.twitter.com/JySHHj4FiN
– EFE News (@EFEnoticias) July 5, 2023
The opinion overturned all the allegations made by the three involved, in particular, according to their position, that the European Parliament did not take into account that the judicial process was launched with the intention of affect the functions of MEPs.
This decision almost definitively settles the comings and goings around the legal figure that until now has prevented Puigdemont from being prosecuted or arrested, since it opens the door for the reactivation of the Eurowarrant so that he can be extradited to Spain, where he is required by authorities for six years.
What are the accusations against Puigdemont?
The former president of the Generalitat fled the country in 2017 to avoid prosecution after a brief declaration of independence for Catalonia in a referendum not approved by Madrid, which sparked Spain’s most serious political crisis in decades and led to the central government at the time. to take control of the budget of the northeast region of the nation.
Although the Spanish Supreme Court dropped the sedition charges against Puigdemont last January after that crime was abolished by a controversial reform of the penal code, the Catalan leader still faces charges of disobedience and embezzlement, which carry penalties of up to eight years in prison. Sedition carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
After the repeal of the crime of sedition, the President of the Government Pedro Sánchez pardoned those convicted of these acts, which has caused a high cost among some political sectors and citizens.
As Spain heads towards early general elections, on July 23, the separatist issue is once again at the center of the debate. The sentence of the TGUE represents a hard blow to the banners of the independence movement, but it does not put an end to it; those involved can still file an appeal before the higher instance: the Court of Justicewithin a maximum period of two months.
“We will defend our fundamental rights to the end”
After knowing the decision of the European Justice, both Puigdemont like Pontsí and Comín announced that they will appeal the sentence.
“Nothing ends, quite the opposite. Everything goes on. We will file an appeal with the CJEU, and we will defend our fundamental rights to the end, which are also the fundamental rights of Catalans and Europeans. With the same spirit of the first day, working to win freedom, ”said the former leader of the Generalitat through his Twitter account.
Res does not end, ben on the contrary. Toth continues. We will present appeals to the CJEU, and in the end we will defend our fundamental rights, which are also the fundamental rights of the Catalans and the Europeans. With the mateix I waited for the first day, working to guarantee freedom.…
— krls.eth / Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) July 5, 2023
In the same vein, he pronounced the lawyer Gonzalo Boye, responsible for the process on behalf of the Catalan politicians. “Both demands are dismissed, we will study the arguments of the General Court and this forces us to appeal in cassation as we have done on all previous occasions,” Boye said, referring to both the appeal that Puigdemont and Comín had filed.
What legal avenues against Puigdemont does the ruling of the EU Court open?
As a first measure, the ruling made public on July 5 gives the green light to the withdrawal of immunity so that the political leader can be tried in Spain, once the TGUE officially communicates its decision to the Spanish Supreme Court.
For now, only national arrest warrants exist against separatist MEPs. In other words, they would be automatically arrested if they decide to return to Spanish territory.
The instructor of the process, Pablo Llarena, must now decide whether to reactivate the international detention of the former Catalan president or whether to wait for the final decision of the CJEU.
— The Vanguard (@LaVanguardia) July 5, 2023
The Euroorder must be reactivated with the prior endorsement of the Prosecutor’s Office, which has previously requested the judge of the Supreme Court of Spain, Pablo Llarena, that activates the arrest on the European continent, both for Puigdemont and for the ex-ministers Comín and Ponsatí, so the approval of the accusing body would be imminent.
But the appeal decision before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to which those involved promise to go, so Llarena must decide whether to order the arrest now or wait for the final resolution of the CJEU.
With Reuters and local media