Spain’s acting president Pedro Sánchez has boasted of controlling the public prosecutor in his bid to extradite exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont from Belgium. While the public prosecutor, or attorney general, is appointed by the Spanish government every four years, the constitution stresses that the office should remain independent and impartial.

In a televised debate on Monday, Sánchez promised to bring exiled Catalan president Puigdemont back to Spain in order to face trial for his role in the 2017 independence bid. Puigdemont’s response came via Twitter, warning Sánchez that he was not in a position to make such pledge unless he was willing to carry out “illegal acts,” such as “interfering with the judiciary” or “kidnapping” him.

In a radio interview on Wednesday, Sánchez pointed out that the public prosecutor recently issued a European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont, and then asked twice: “Who does the prosecutor answer to?” The anchor responded: “To the government.” Sánchez concluded: “Then, that’s it.”

Change of position

Sánchez’s remarks are in contrast to his position only a few months ago, when he told pro-independence parties that he could not tell the public prosecutor to drop the rebellion charges for their leaders on trial. Spain’s Supreme Court eventually convicted 9 pro-independence leaders for the lesser offence of sedition, with prison sentences ranging from 9 to 13 years.

Sánchez is running as the presidential candidate for the Socialist Party in the November 10 general election. As polls predict he will fall short of a majority to rule alone, he might need the support of Catalan parties to stay in power.