Puigdemont to return to Brussels but will return to Italy for an extradition hearing
Briefly arrested in Sardinia and free to move, the ex-president of Catalonia and MEP Carles Puigdemont announced on Saturday that he would return to Belgium from Italy on Monday but would return to Italy in early October for a hearing on his extradition demanded by the Spain.
“I plan to return to Brussels on Monday because there is a meeting of the Foreign Trade Committee (of the European Parliament), of which I am a member,” he said during a press conference in Alghero, a Sardinian city of Catalan culture. “On October 4, I was summoned to the court of Sassari (northern Sardinia). I will indeed be present, because each time I have been summoned by the courts, I have introduced myself, ”he assured.
Mr Puigdemont, 58, MEP since 2019, was arrested Thursday evening on his arrival at Alghero airport, where he was to participate in the Catalan Adifolk festival. He was released on Friday evening after pledging to be present on October 4 for a hearing on his extradition to Spain.
Spanish justice accuses him of “sedition” and “embezzlement of public funds”.
Carles Puigdemont also made it known that he would continue to travel in Europe, defying Madrid and the European arrest warrant which has earned him regular legal setbacks on the continent for almost two years. “We will never give up and I will continue to travel to Europe,” said Puigdemont.
His arrest and then his release 24 hours later by the Italian justice “prove”, according to him, the fight of the Catalan separatists for “freedom, democracy, the defense of the right to self-determination, freedom of expression, freedom of movement “.
According to his Italian lawyer Agostinangelo Marras, the decision on his extradition could take “weeks”.
– ” I’m free ” –
In March 2018, he was arrested for the first time at the request of Spain, in Germany this time. But he was released a few days later.
The independentist enjoyed parliamentary immunity for a time, but the European Parliament lifted it on March 9 by a large majority. A measure confirmed on July 30 by the General Court of the European Union.
However, the European Parliament’s decision is the subject of an appeal, the final judgment on the merits of which by the EU courts must be rendered “at a later date”. His legal advisers therefore consider that Parliament’s decision is “suspended”, as is the application of the arrest warrant, and that their client must still benefit from his immunity.
Saturday morning, Carles Puigdemont had taken a walkabout in Alghero for his first public appearance after his release from the high security prison of Sassari.
“I am very happy to be here, to take advantage of this event, of this cultural and linguistic event” which has brought together political and cultural personalities from Catalonia and Sardinia every year for nearly four decades, he told the AFP. “I’m used to being persecuted by Spain, but it always ends the same: I’m free.”
He then met with the mayor of the city, Mario Conoci, the president of the Sardinian region, Christian Solinas, as well as with the Catalan president, Pere Aragones, and the president of the Parliament of Catalonia, Lauras Borras.
Catalonia’s attempted secession in October 2017 was one of the worst crises that Spain has experienced since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.
Despite the ban on justice, the regional government chaired by Mr. Puigdemont had organized a self-determination referendum punctuated by police violence and followed, a few weeks later, by a stillborn declaration of independence.
Madrid reacted by putting the region under control and arresting the main leaders of the independence movement who had not fled abroad.