Spanish court won’t seek extradition of Catalan leader in Switzerland
Supreme Court orders the arrest of Anna Gabriel only if she returns to Spain
The Spanish Supreme Court will not issue an international arrest warrant for Anna Gabriel, a Catalan leader seeking refuge in Switzerland, thus temporarily abstaining from starting an extradition process whose success was far from assured.
Judge Pablo Llarena ordered the arrest of Gabriel if she returns to the country. Although she was summoned to appear in court on Wednesday, she did not attend the hearing alleging that the Spanish justice would not offer her a fair trial. She faces criminal charges that carry up to 30 years in prison for her role in Catalonia’s independence bid.
Earlier in the day, Spain’s attorney general requested Llarena pursue the extradition of Gabriel. The judge, though, decided to dismiss the prosecutor’s petition.
Folco Galli, a spokesperson for the Swiss government, said that the country would not extradite or provide any legal assistance if the offenses for which Gabriel was being prosecuted were deemed to be political. And according to Galli, this is exactly what media reports suggest.
"It's obvious that there was not a violent rebellion, and the criminal charges we face have no basis"
Anna Gabriel · CUP former MP
"If an extradition order is issued, our intention is to respond by putting a mirror in front of the State, its judicial system, the government, thus evidencing that we're being persecuted for strictly political acts," said Gabriel in an interview with Catalonia's public TV. "It's obvious that there was not a violent rebellion, and the criminal charges we face have no basis."
In holding back the extradition order, Llarena avoids a clash between justice systems in Spain and Switzerland that could ultimately interfere with the ongoing investigation on Catalan pro-independence leaders at the national level.
Last December, the Supreme Court withdrew an international arrest warrant for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont after the Belgian justice did not facilitate a quick extradition. Currently, Puigdemont and the ministers who accompany him in Brussels are free to move around Europe, but will be arrested if they set foot on Spanish soil.
A former member of the Catalan parliament and one of the far-left CUP party’s most prominent leaders, Gabriel remains a very influential voice in Catalonia. CUP has only a few seats in parliament, but it is enough to make it the kingmaker that secures a pro-independence majority in the chamber.