Catalan Separatist Vows to Continue to Defy Spain After Arrest
(Bloomberg) -- Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont said he will continue to travel across Europe even after he was arrested in Italy earlier this week.
“I will continue traveling across Europe explaining” the case for independence for Catalonia, the region in north eastern Spain that includes Barcelona, Puigdemont said at a press conference Saturday in Sardinia. Because Europe has a “strong and independent” judiciary he continues to be free from the “persecution” of Spanish courts, he said.
Puigdemont, who has been on the run from Spanish justice since the botched 2017 Catalan independence declaration, was arrested on his arrival to Sardinia late on Sept. 23, on a request from the Spanish police. A judge ordered his release the next day.
He now lives near Brussels and was visiting the Italian island to take part in local folk festivities in a region that pro-independence Catalans consider to be part of the broader Catalan territory.
Puigdemont “will travel to Brussels tomorrow and return on Oct. 3” to Sardinia to face an extradition hearing the next day, Gonzalo Boye, one of his lawyers, said earlier on Saturday by phone. The arrest is in contempt of a European Union court ruling issued in July, which stipulated that all warrants against him were temporarily suspended, according to Boye.
The arrest caught Puigdemont and his legal team by surprise because in recent months the separatist leader had traveled from Brussels to France, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland without incident. The trips took place after the European Court issued its opinion on the suspension of the arrest warrants.
The Spanish Supreme Court has said that the suspension of warrants only applies to trips between Brussels and Strasbourg, to allow Puigdemont to go to the European Parliament, where he holds a seat. A press officer for the Supreme Court couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
This is the third time Puigdemont has been arrested and faced an extradition request since fleeing Spain in 2017. He was previously detained in Germany and Belgium. Both times, local judges rejected the Spanish requests.
Nine other leaders of the independence movement were pardoned by Spain this year after serving time in prison.
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