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Many German commentators against extraditing Puigdemont

The co-owner of the ‘Der Spiegel’ newspaper, Jakob Augstein, described the president’s detention as “a disgrace for Spain, for Europe and for Germany.”

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28 March 2018 12:31 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

The detention of deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Germany has caught the attention of the media inside the country, and abroad. While the German government limited itself to insisting that the case is a domestic Spanish issue, the press in Germany have been much more willing to speculate on Puigdemont’s future. Meanwhile, one German MP even compared the deposed leader to Lluís Companys, the Catalan president arrested by the Nazis in 1940 and extradited to Spain, where he was later executed by the Franco regime.

The Catalan issue “must be resolved within Spain’s legal and constitutional framework,” was how a spokesman for Angela Merkel’s government responded to questions about Puigdemont’s detention on Monday. Yet, while the German authorities aimed to keep the controversy at arm’s length, commentators in the media were not so shy. An example is analyst Thomas Kreutzmann, on the ARD television network, who expressed doubts that Puigdemont would be extradited, as “the crime of rebellion does not exist in German law.”

Similarly, the co-owner of the ‘Der Spiegel’ newspaper, Jakob Augstein, called on the German authorities not to extradite Puigdemont, and he described the president’s detention as “a disgrace for Spain, for Europe and for Germany.” In the same publication, columnist Claus Hecking declared that “Puigdemont is not guilty of any treason,” the only offense in German law that could be compared with the crime of rebellion. The only grounds for extradition Hecking can imagine is for misuse of funds, but then, points out the columnist, Spain’s Supreme Court would not be able to prosecute Puigdemont for rebellion.

Two opinion articles by journalist Wolfgang Janisch in the ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ newspaper also cast doubt on the possibility of Puigdemont being extradited for rebellion, for the same reasons. Additionally, Janisch points out that “the European arrest warrant is a tool to make extradition to Europe easier, and not a way to use foreign prosecutors to fight internal conflicts.” Heribert Prantl in the same newspaper concurs and believes that “Germany should not allow itself to be fooled by Spain,” and he concludes that “the extradition request should be turned down.” 

Meanwhile, Martin Dahms in the ‘Berliner Zeitung’ newspaper says that Puigdemont is not a rebel in the criminal sense of the word: “He did not organize any violent uprising,” he points out, while Damir Fras in the same newspaper calls on Germany “to mediate between Catalonia and Spain.” As for the ‘Die Welt’ newspaper’s Torsten Krauel, he sees the extradition as “probable” but calls for it to be followed by international political action: “Barcelona is the next great joint task; the Catalan problems are not irresolvable,” he said.

Puigdemont and Companys

Nor was the Puigdemont issue limited to the press, as social media also had its say. Perhaps the best example are the tweets by the president of the state of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow. A member of Germany’s main alternative left party, Die Linke, Ramelow pointed out that “the last Catalan president to declare independence and who was detained by German security forces was Lluís Companys.” Ramelow went on to say that Companys “was detained by the Gestapo in France in 1940, extradited to Spain, tortured and shot by firing squad.” To reinforce his message, Ramelow included a link to People’s Party spokesman Pablo Casado predicting that Puigdemont could end up like Companys.

Madrid “making things worse”

Beyond Germany’s borders, the Puigdemont issue also made it into the international mainstream media, with a ‘New York Times’ editorial criticizing the authorities in Madrid for treating it as a “criminal issue”, when Puigdemont’s detention pushes “Catalan independence into a far broader and distinctly political arena.” Meanwhile, an editorial in the UK’s ‘The Times’ criticizes the Rajoy government for the hard line it has taken in “imprisoning” independence leaders, which it believes shows a desire to “make a situation that is already difficult worse.”

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  • Political signs in front of Germany's Neumünster prison (by Guifré Jordan)

  • Political signs in front of Germany's Neumünster prison (by Guifré Jordan)