Exiled Catalan MP hopes CJEU judges will go against advocate general opinion

Legal experts sided with Spain in their attempts to extradite Lluís Puig, ahead of expected court decision

Exiled Catalan politicians Lluís Puig and Carles Puigdemont (by Gemma Tubert/Xavier Pi)
Exiled Catalan politicians Lluís Puig and Carles Puigdemont (by Gemma Tubert/Xavier Pi) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 15, 2022 11:40 AM

Lluís Puig, the Catalan MP and former minister currently living in exile in Belgium, hopes that Court of Justice of the European Union judges will go against the advice of the advocate general and reject arrest warrants against him. 

Spain has been trying to extradite Puig, as well as other Catalan politicians who played significant roles in the 2017 independence push including former president Carles Puigdemont ever since the peak of the independence crisis, but Belgium has repeatedly rejected arrest warrants against them.

On Thursday, the advocate general of the EU court gave an opinion that said other countries cannot question the competency of member state Supreme Courts unless they can demonstrate “systemic deficiencies” in its judicial system, potentially paving the way for Puig to be returned to Spain to face prosecution. 

However, Puig hopes that the judges will go against this advice, something that doesn’t often happen. If courts rule against him, Puig said on Catalunya Ràdio on Friday morning that he and his legal team will go back to the "starting box" and begin again. 

The JxCat MP acknowledged that the lawyer's decision was a "setback" – "We will have to lead the example of all those retaliated against to see if 4,200 cases count as a systemic violation or not, because nowhere is it defined what it is," he said.

The former culture minister points out that 90% of the time the advocate general's opinions are "decisive" in making the final decision for the courts. "Now it's time to think about the other 10%, and think that the final resolution will change."

Puigdemont’s lawyer: ‘Operation Catalonia’ shows systemic failures

Carles Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, claims that leaked audios from the former high ranking Spanish police commissioner, José Manuel Villarejo, "demonstrate the widespread systemic failure" of the Spanish judicial system.

Boye pointed to the so-called ‘Operation Catalonia’ plot, attempts over a long period of time from Spain’s interior ministry to discredit the independence camp as reported by a former Spanish police official, as a just reason to deny the arrest warrants against exiled Catalan politicians. 

For Boye, the report from the advocate general is "untechnical and not rigorous," and the lawyer said he is now awaiting the court's decision. He also stated that there is a "clear risk" of not having a fair trial in Spain and doesn’t believe that the arrest warrants could be reactivated before the end of the procedure.

Puigdemont's extradition case also pending immunity decision

While the ruling over Puig’s case will set a precedent for the other exiles' cases, Belgium's public prosecutor has stated that in the case of Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí, all former government members now in exile and MEPs, their extradition procedures will continue on hold regardless, because their immunity status has yet to be fully clarified. 

After Puigdemont, Comín, and Ponsatí had their immunity as Members of the European Parliament (MEP) lifted in March 2021, their legal team appealed against the decision made by a majority of the members of parliament before the EU court. In June, they recovered their parliamentary privileges, before then losing them again in July in a provisional decision. However, in May 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) provisionally restored the parliamentary immunity of the Catalan pro-independence MEPs.