Catalan ex-leader seeks immunity ahead of extradition hearing in Italy

Exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont attends the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade (INTA) in Brussels
Exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont attends the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade (INTA) in Brussels on September 27th, 2021 as he seeks to hold on to his immunity as an MEP. François WALSCHAERTS / AFP
Exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, about to fight a Spanish extradition order in an Italian court, is seeking an emergency injunction to retain his immunity as an MEP, his legal team told AFP on Friday.

The request, lodged with the EU General Court, was made before Puigdemont is to appear in court on Monday following his arrest in Italy last week on the Spanish extradition order.

Puigdemont, who was conditionally released to return to Brussels where he is a lawmaker in the European Parliament, will still be attending the hearing, a member of his legal team told AFP.

If granted, the injunction would immediately suspend a July decision by the EU court that provisionally lifted Puigdemont’s immunity, pending a later ruling on the core arguments on the issue, said the legal source, who declined to be identified.

Failing that, Puigdemont’s legal team wants the EU court to take up the fuller case on whether his immunity should be taken away.

Puigdemont, 58, is wanted by Madrid on charges of sedition for leading a failed Catalan bid to declare independence from Spain in October 2017, fleeing to Belgium to avoid prosecution.

Despite a ban by Madrid, Catalonia’s separatist regional government under Puigdemont tried to stage an independence referendum in 2017, which was marred by police violence. 

Several weeks later, the administration issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering a political crisis with Spain and prompting Puigdemont and several others to flee abroad.

The injunction requested also covers two former Catalan regional ministers who are now MEPs but also wanted by Spain – Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati.

The way it was lodged requires input from the European Parliament and the Spanish government, the legal source said — something that could take weeks.

The July interim ruling by the EU court, while suspending Puigdemont’s immunity, also considered that Spain’s EU-wide arrest and extradition order was not in effect pending the fuller EU court case.

However, last Thursday the leading Spanish judge in the extradition effort gave Italian authorities a document insisting that the order remained valid.

The legal source told AFP that the injunction request “does not affect the hearing on Monday” in Italy, and confirmed that Puigdemont would voluntarily attend in person.


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