Independence camp claims victory after CJEU ruling on extradition requests

Former Catalan president Puigdemont says arrest warrants are now "inviable"

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking to the media on January 31, 2023
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking to the media on January 31, 2023 / Albert Cadanet
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 31, 2023 12:28 PM

January 31, 2023 06:34 PM

Following the Court of Justice of the European Union's rulings on Tuesday regarding the queries asked to it by Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, the independence camp has claimed a judicial victory, although the ruling leaves some ambiguity and room for interpretation.

While the Luxembourg court acknowledged that in certain cases a European member state can reject arrest warrants, such as the one Belgium rejected against former Catalan minister Lluís Puig, it added the point that more evidence, proof, and justification would be needed. 

In its nuanced ruling, the EU Court endorsed rejecting an arrest warrant request if it can demonstrate "well-founded reasons" such as the violation of rights, "deficiencies" in the judicial system, or in the treatment of its "group." 

Magistrates also said that Belgium could not question the authority of the Spanish Supreme Court for sending the arrest warrant request. 

Speaking to the media at midday following the ruling, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said that extradition processes were now "dead" and that the conditions to request further arrest warrants are "inviable." 

The Catalan leader of the 2017 referendum believes today's judgment is "very significant" as Catalans as a "group objectively identifiable" which, in his view, means that the independence leaders should be protected in Tuesday morning's ruling. 

"The scenario of returning [to Catalonia], but returning free, not extradited nor ever giving up, it's what I've always worked toward, and today we're closer to that," says former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont / Catalan News

He also made reference to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's report calling for the freedom of the independence leaders, and repeated that he or his legal team never defended their cases in a personal capacity, but rather as a collective group

"Catalans are a nation," Puigdemont said to the media, before vowing to continue his "political fight" that he has been working on for "five years" now, and today's court ruling opens a "new phase" that he views in a very positive manner. 

Lluís Puig, whose case the CJEU ruling centered on, said that the exiles are "increasingly strong" in Europe following the court decision, and that he was "very happy" both personally and in a general sense about the ruling, as it strengthens the fundamental rights of people across Europe, he explained. 

"Europe is more just," he said, also highlighting the court's reference to a "group," as one of the potential conditions that member states can reject arrest warrants. He also pledged to continue his political fight in a "peaceful and democratic way."

Earlier in the morning speak with Catalan radio station RAC1, Puig said there are now "more arguments to continue not extraditing me to Spain, there are more reasons that the new extradition request must comply with." 

Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, celebrated that today is a "good day" following the "tremendously positive" ruling. "The judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union are to be read in their entirety," he pointed out after the ruling was made public. 

The lawyer has continually argued that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to prosecute the independence leaders, citing a reference from the judgment published this Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Andreu Van den Eynde, the lawyer for ERC politicians Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, sees reasons to believe that Tuesday's judgment shows that member state courts will continue to understand the "repressive bias against the independence movement that the Spanish courts have." 

As the legal expert highlighted on Twitter, the CJEU has said that a European order can be refused when there is a risk of violation to fundamental rights and a "specific group" of people is affected. "It is time to continue fighting for the recognition of fundamental rights and against the perverse use of criminal law for political purposes," Van den Eynde added.

Catalan government: independence campaigners clearly a 'group objectively identifiable'

The Catalan government has also welcomed the ruling. 

On Tuesday afternoon, spokesperson Patrícia Plaja pointed out that the judges focused on possible violations of fundamental rights of a specific group of people. 

"This opens the door to proving what this government denounces: a general case against the independence movement, Spain's persecution of the independence camp."

For her, it is very clear that those in favor of a split are part of a "group objectively identifiable" whose rights are being violated.

Former Spanish interior minister: ruling ends "excuses"

Spain's interior minister at the time of the 2017 independence push, Juan Ignacio Zoido, also celebrated the court ruling on Tuesday. 

According to him, the decision "endorses judge Llarena" and "overthrows all the excuses of the Catalan independence supporters," he wrote in a tweet, adding "Puigdemont must answer to the law." 

MEP Adrián Vázquez of unionist Ciudadanos believes that the decision "paves the way for the return of the fugitives," referencing the 2017 independence leaders now living abroad. 

Vázquez is also president of the Legal Affairs Committee of the European chamber and took charge of the request to strip the immunity of the exiled MEPs.

In a tweet, he that the the CJEU ruling states that "a member state of the European Union cannot refuse to carry out a European arrest warrant for the reasons Belgium did."