Germany frees Puigdemont on bail and rejects charges of rebellion
German judiciary dismisses charge due to lack of violence, but requests more information on the charge of misuse of public funds before accepting to process the extradition request
The Schlewsig-Holstein court in Germany has freed deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on bail. The judiciary has also rejected the charges of rebellion, translating to the German crimes of high treason, due to lack of violence.The judge presiding over the German court has requested "more information" on the charge of misuse of public funds before accepting to process the extradition request against Puigdemont.
The ruling came with conditions, however. The German judge ordered Puigdemont to present himself at a police station on a weekly basis. He will also have to remain in the town of Neumünster, where the prison is located, informing the prosecutor's office if he leaves.
Meanwhile, the Spanish prosecutor has stated that there is "no possibility to appeal" the German court's decision to release Puigdemont, and reject his extradition for rebellion. The bail for the deposed Catalan president was set at €75,000; through paying this, the German judge has ruled that Puigdemont not be held in custody while a final decision is made on his extradition, a process which could take up to three months.
In a public document, the German judge overseeing the case notes that, a priori, the charge of misuse of public funds "does not initially seem inadmissible," but he believes that it's necessary to "clarify more facts and obtain more information." The Schlewsig-Holstein court further states that it is impartial, and is not aware of there being "political persecution" against Puigdemont. As the charges of rebellion were rejected, the judicial entity additionally writes that the "flight risk" for Puigdemont has "significantly" dropped, and therefore, "such drastic measures" as pre-trial prison are not necessary.
A reactivated arrest warrant
Carles Puigdemont has been held in custody in Neumünster since March 25, when he was detained by German police. This was in response to a European Arrest Warrant that the Spanish judiciary reissued against the Catalan leader along with other Catalan officials abroad.
When he was apprehended, Puigdemont was traveling through the country, returning back to Belgium, where he resides. He had previously been in Finland, where he had been invited to speak by a local MP. The four individuals traveling with him are also currently being investigated for aiding and abetting.
This is in fact not the first time a European Arrest Warrant has been issued against the Catalan leader. In November 2017, shortly after he went to Belgium following a declaration of independence in Catalonia, the Spanish judiciary issued a European warrant for his arrest which was ultimately withdrawn by Spain itself.
The reactions to this decision were far-reaching. Carles Puigdemont himself posted a message on his Twitter account saying “we’ll see each other tomorrow. Thank you very much everyone!” Deposed minister from his cabinet Toni Comín, who has been residing in Belgium as well, expressed "immense satisfaction" over the decision. In fact, he did so while speaking to the press while leaving the Belgian courtroom where he and two other dismissed officials had appeared to face the same European arrest warrant. "In each of the four cases the decision was the same," noted Comín, contrasting this with the decisions taken by the Spanish justice.
Puigdemont's defense team in Germany celebrated the choice, deeming the accusation of rebellion as “shameful.” Puigdemont’s own candidacy, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), expressed that through this decision, Europe gave a “lesson” to Spain. Three of the deposed president’s dismissed cabinet members, two in prison and one free on bail in Scotland, also praised the news. Raül Romeva, deposed Home Affairs minister incarcerated near Madrid, posted on his social media that “The German judiciary, free and independent, has once again confirmed the evidence: we are a people of peace.” From Scotland, Clara Ponsatí proclaimed “We will win!” while Oriol Junqueras, incarcerated since fall 2017, expressed his happiness through a smiling emoji on his Twitter.
"Proof of judicial independence"
Meanwhile, the Spanish government has issued a statement that they “respect” the judge’s ruling, additionally stating that they “never express opinions” on judicial decisions and “respect them, whether they like them or not.” Spanish Minister for Justice Rafael Catalá stated that the decision is “proof of judicial independence.”
Leader for Spain’s ruling People’s Party in Catalonia (PPC) Xavier García Albiol also said he respects the decision taken but added that it’s necessary to live in Catalonia to “understand what’s actually happening.” The spokesperson for unionist Ciutadans (C’s) party, Carlos Carrizosa, expressed his opinion on Twitter: “Puigdemont fled the Spanish justice.” Far-right group and one of the plaintiffs in the ongoing trials, Vox, has for its part begun speaking to German lawyers to judge Puigdemont for rebellion.
"Good news" with "influence"
However, the Catalan parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, deemed the decision as “very good news” adding that “it’s time for this political persecution based, on a completely false narrative, to end.” The leader of the unionist Socialist party (PSC) Miquel Iceta has expressed the opinion that the decision “will have influence,” but has noted that it’s necessary to see “up to what point” this will reach.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the in-between-blocs Cataluna en Comó-Podem platform, Xavier Domènech, echoed the Torrent’s opinion that the ruling is “good news,” especially regarding the charges of rebellion. MP for the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party Joan Tardà commented on his social media “What a blow for [the Spanish government].” Additionally, MP Vidal Aragonés for the far-left pro-independence CUP party has already suggested attempting to swear in Puigdemont as soon as he is released from holding.