Former president Carles Puigdemont has returned to Brussels where he had been previously seeking refuge from the Spanish justice system prior to his detention in Germany. He left Catalonia last year after a declaration of independence leading to Spain’s Supreme Court prosecuting him and other individuals for the role they played in the country’s push to become a republic.
He left Belgium to attend a conference in Finland, but was arrested upon his return in Germany, where he was briefly held in jail. Although he was later released with preventive measures, with a European arrest warrant hanging over his head, he could not leave the country until the German courts decided whether he should be extradited to Spain or not. He was wanted for rebellion and misuse of funds. By Spanish law, the crime of rebellion can carry up to 30 years behind bars.
Arrest warrant withdrawn
After months of deliberation, the Schleswig-Holstein court in northern Germany court accepted the extradition request, but only for misuse of funds and not rebellion. Days later, however, the Spanish Supreme Court withdrew the European arrest warrant against Puigdemont and all other pro-independence leaders in exile. At the time, the deposed Catalan president criticized the move, stating that it was “evidence of the weakness” of Spain’s legal case.
Once he was able to move freely throughout Europe again, without setting foot in Spain where he would be arrested, sources close to Puigdemont already alluded to his intentions to return to Brussels. On Saturday morning, after four months in Germany, this was confirmed as he caught a Brussels Airlines flight from the port city of Hamburg back to the Belgian capital.
The frontrunner of the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) ticket during the December 21 election called by the Spanish government has met with the current president Quim Torra at the Catalan government’s delegation to the European Union. Deposed MPs in exile are also present. This will be the first time former president Puigdemont enters the delegation since October last year when he left Catalonia after the declaration of independence. Despite his absence from the country and ongoing legal situation, Puigdemont was recently chosen as leader of the centre-right pro-independence group PDeCAT.