Ex-Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont detained in Germany

The detention threatens to worsen the Catalan crisis that flared last year when the region made a symbolic declaration of independence, prompting Madrid to take direct rule
Ex-Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont detained in Germany
People protest in front of the prison in Neumuenster, Germany, after former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was detained – Photo: Thomas Nyfeler/REUTERS
27/03/2018
10:11
Reuters
Barcelona/Berlin
Sam Edwards & Joseph Nasr
-A +A

On Sunday, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was detained in Germany, five months after entering self-imposed exile from Spain, where he faces up to 25 years in prison for organizing an illegal secession referendum last year.

Puigdemont had entered Germany from Denmark after leaving Finland on Friday when it appeared that police would arrest him there and begin an extradition process requested by Spain.

The detention threatens to worsen the Catalan crisis that flared last year when the region made a symbolic declaration of independence, prompting Madrid to take direct rule.

Tens of thousands of Catalans, many of them wearing yellow in support of jailed separatist leaders, demonstrated in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon, chanting “Puigdemont, our president” and “freedom for political prisoners.”

In a smaller parallel protest outside the central government delegation in the Catalan capital, three people were arrested and 50 suffered minor injuries after protesters clashed with riot police.

Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent called for a broad coalition in defense of civil liberties and sovereign rights in a televised address on Sunday evening.

“No judge, no government and no civil servant has right to charge and pursue the president of all Catalans,” he said. Torrent called for “calm and responsibility” following the scuffles.

Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that 25 Catalan leaders would be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state and reactivated international arrest warrants for Puigdemont and four other politicians who went into self-imposed exile last year.

Among those subject to the arrest order, Clara Ponsati, a former Catalan minister now living in Scotland, told authorities she would turn herself in, Scottish police said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

The other three Catalan leaders are in Belgium.

German police arrested Puigdemont on Sunday in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain. In a statement, police said Puigdemont was detained near a section of the A7 highway, which cuts through the state from the city of Flensburg near the Danish border.

Puigdemont was later transferred to Neumuenster prison, German news agency DPA reported.

He had arrived in Finland on Thursday to meet lawmakers and attend a conference as part of a campaign to raise the profile of the Catalan independence movement in Europe.

The Higher Regional Court in Schleswig-Holstein will be responsible for deciding whether to grant Spain’s extradition request.

The European arrest warrant system in place since 2004 makes it easier for EU countries to demand extradition from other EU states, having removed political decision-making from the process. EU nations issue thousands of such warrants each year.

The Spanish Supreme Court had issued an international arrest warrant against Puigdemont last year but withdrew it in December to avoid the risk of Belgian authorities granting him asylum.

Leaving Belgium had exposed him again to the risk of arrest.

sg

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