Spanish court drops extradition request for wanted Catalan politicians

Carla Ponsati has been fighting extradition
Credit
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Judge Pablo Llarena revoked the European and worldwide arrest warrants previously issued against Professor Ponsati and the other five Catalan politicians.

Llarena canceled the worldwide arrest warrant for the former head of the government of Catalonia Carles Pokdemon, who fled to Belgium to avoid arrest, and then went to Germany where he was arrested.

The move comes a week after a court in Germany, where Puigdemont was detained in March, ruled that he can be extradited to Spain - not on rebellion charges, however, but on the lesser charge of misuse of public funds.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped global and European arrest warrants on Thursday for former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and five other separatist leaders who fled overseas.

In December, Llarena had already dropped a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and other Catalans who were then in Belgium.

Puigdemont said the decision exposed "huge shortcomings" in the Supreme Court's legal case against the separatists, including nine who are in Spanish jails awaiting possible trial and whom the separatist movement regards as victims of political persecution.

Puigdemont's lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, declared triumph, writing on Twitter: "It looks like we have a memorable summer".

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Rebellion is the most serious charge levelled against Mr Puigdemont.

If Puigdemont and the other separatist leaders had been extradited for charges of misusing public funds, they would have only been allowed to be tried in Spain on those charges.

In Spain, rebellion carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while misuse of public funds carries only up to 12 years.

"From the very beginning Clara Ponsati utterly refuted the charges she faced and Spain was accused of abusing the European arrest warrant for politically motivated prosecutions", he added.

Aamer Anwar told Reuters: "The question that arises is whether the Spanish government are willing to allow Mr Puigdemont to simply return back to Catalonia and declare independence".

In his ruling, Llarena blasted the German court's decision, arguing it should have analysed the acts as they took place, from the referendum on October 1 that went ahead despite a court ban and was marred by police violence, to a failed declaration of independence on October 27. New Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has met Puigdemont's successor - fervent separatist Quim Torra - in a thawing of relations between Madrid and Barcelona.

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