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Catalan government: Puigdemont's arrest 'irregular' and evidence of Spain's 'repression'

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez says it is "obvious" the former Catalan leader must face justice, while reaffirming that dialogue is "more important than ever"

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24 September 2021 02:06 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan government flatly rejected the detention of former president Puigdemont in the Italian island of Sardinia on Thursday night.

On Friday, Puigdemont is likely to be provisionally released but will have to remain on the island of Sardinia while judges deliberate on his case and decide how to proceed.

In a tweet at 11.30 pm on Thursday, President Pere Aragonès said: "Facing judicial persecution and repression, we express the most energical condemnation. It must stop. Amnesty is the only way out. Self-determination, the only solution."

On Friday afternoon, Aragonès gave an official statement in which he called for “freedom for president Puigdemont and all those facing repression," and demanded the immediate release of the former leader of the Catalan government. 

The ERC official said the arrest of Puigdemont has “shown that the Spanish authorities have acted unfaithfully towards the European justice.” 

“It’s also clear,” Aragonès added, “that this doesn’t help the negotiation process.” The Catalan president met with the Spanish president in mid-September to kick off a new era of the dialogue table between both governments to try to solve the independence conflict.

In it, both administrations agreed to favour “progress over deadlines” after a meeting at which ERC’s coalition partners JxCat, led by Carles Puigdemont, were not present. Junts are sceptical of engaging in dialogue with Spain in order to achieve their stated goal of independence, while it is the preferred approach of ERC to meet the same objective. 

“Now, more than ever, amnesty and self-determination is the only solution to the political conflict,” Aragonès concluded.

Parliament speaker Laura Borràs, a senior member of Carles Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya party, described her "indignation" upon hearing the news to Catalan News, as, she says, the former president's "freedom is not being respected."

"He's a free man in a free Europe, he has a political agenda across Europe. Last week he was in Paris," Borràs explained. "Italy should be respecting the European courts and Spain should be respecting president Puigdemont's political inviolability. If you are talking about peace and negotiation or dialogue and then you are arresting people and not considering their rights, these things are not compatible."

Borràs also accused Spain of being "obsessed" with the former president because he "reveals its democratic shames" in an interview with Catalonia's TV3.

There, she explained that "it's obvious that Puigdemont is Spain's main public enemy" and that the state will do "everything in its hands" to get him extradited.

The Catalan foreign minister, Victòria Alsina, said in an interview with TV3 public broadcaster that the cabinet believes the politician's arrest is "irregular" because his EU arrest warrant is now suspended. She also said they have got in touch with "the top European, Italian and Sardinian authorities" on the issue.

Alsina reminded that last month, Puigdemont was able to travel to Northern Catalonia, a Catalan-speaking territory now in France, and was not arrested.

Ernest Maragall of the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana, senior coalition partners with Puigdemont's Junts party, echoed the sentiments of anger. 

"Our message is freedom and respect rights, respect European values and the free decision of the Catalan people," Maragall told Catalan News. "Today we see these principles and values are being destroyed by Spain and Italian justice."

"[The arrest] will reinforce [the independence campaign]," the ERC official believes. "It is giving us a new argument, a new reason, we are full of reasons."

The far-left CUP party, the main political allies of the pro-independence government formed by JxCat and Aragonès' Esquerra party, reacted to Puigdemont's detention by demanding an end to "repression", an amnesty, and self-determination.

Spain: 'Puigdemont must face justice just like any other citizen'

In a press release by Spain's secretary of communication, the government of president Pedro Sánchez explained that Puigdemont's detention is "part of an ongoing judicial proceeding".

The former Catalan president, they said, will be "held responsible for his deeds at court," and insisted that he must face "justice just like any other citizen."

The head of the Spanish government reiterated the need for dialogue between Spain and Catalonia, saying it is "more important than ever" now. However, the Socialist head also considers it "obvious" that Puigdemont should face justice. 

  • "Puigdemont has to be judged in Spain for his coup against the constitutional legality"

    Pablo Casado · PP leader

The detention of Puigdemont could reignite tensions between Catalan and Spanish governments and thwart efforts to engage in dialogue over the independence conflict, which a breakthrough meeting being held on September 15.

Jaume Asens, a Spanish MP for Unidas Podemos, the junior partners in the left-wing coalition government led by the Socialists, called Puigdemont's detention "illegal" and "incomprehensible."

Right-wing unionists welcome arrest

Yet, unionist parties welcomed the news. The People's Party leader, Pablo Casado, tweeted that the leader of the 2017 independence push "has to be judged in Spain for his coup against the constitutional legality."

He also regretted that Spain's government pardoned the nine independence leaders who did not go into exile and were sentenced to 9 to 13 years in jail – in the end they spent around three and a half until released on June 23, 2021.

"This renegade coupmonger has caused a big hard to Spain, especially to Catalonia. I hope justice can put him on the dock and sentences his crimes before the government releases him again," said Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right Vox. Ignacio Garriga, leader of the same party in Catalonia, demanded his "immediate" extradition.

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