A court in Madrid has issued a European Arrest Warrant for deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. In total, 9 deposed officials from the Catalan leadership have been placed under arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition and perhaps most peculiarly, embezzlement. All but Puigdemont have now been remanded into custody by Spanish police.
Puigdemont is the most prominent figure wanted on charges which could carry a prison sentence of 30 years and he is the only one who is still living as a free man.The deposed Catalan President is currently in Belgium where he is likely to formally seek asylum.
Puigdemont now faces legal limbo, as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) has been highly controversial since its introduction in 2004.
Julian Assange’s plight began when Sweden issued an EAW for Assange on charges related to uniquely Swedish offences that would not constituent any violation under English law. Julian Assange tried to fight extradition in English courts, but the power of the EAW prevailed which resulted Julian Assange seeking and receiving asylum in Ecuador. Assange is currently living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as a result of the ordeal.
Assange who has been a vocal supporter of Catalan independence Tweeted the following about the lack of impartiality in Spain’s judiciary.
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) October 21, 2017
Puigdemont’s case is now the second most prominent EAW matter with clear political overtones. While Assange was sought be Sweden on non-political charges whose origin is widely believed to be political in nature, with Puigdemont there is no technical ambiguity. Spain seeks Puigdemont’s extradition from Belgium because of his political activities.
This is where matters get more complicated. The EAW is generally a straightforward process where one EU state can simply ask another to handover a person wanted for questioning relating to any proprietorial matter, however small.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. One of the exceptions which allows an EU state to refuse a request under the EAW is if the arrest of the suspect is sought in connection with something that a judge could reasonably define as persecution for one’s political beliefs.
It is now likely that Carles Puigdemont will argue this in a Belgian court.
Protesters have taken to the streets of Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, in support of the arrested independence leaders.
Following the imprisonment of the Catalan ministers, protesters are again on the street & asking "Where is Europe." pic.twitter.com/4NhBgJA6SL
— The Pileus (@thepileus) November 2, 2017
Puigdemont has yet to publicly respond to Spain’s issuing of an EAW.