Puigdemont returns to Brussels after four months in Germany

Former president to meet with current head of government Quim Torra in Belgian capital

Puigdemont getting on a plane (by ACN)
Puigdemont getting on a plane (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Brussels

July 28, 2018 09:24 AM

 Former president Carles Puigdemont has returned to Brussels where he had been previously seeking refuge from the Spanish justice system prior to his detention in Germany. He left Catalonia last year after a declaration of independence leading to Spain’s Supreme Court prosecuting him and other individuals for the role they played in the country's push to become a republic.

He left Belgium to attend a conference in Finland, but was arrested upon his return in Germany, where he was briefly held in jail. Although he was later released with preventive measures, with a European arrest warrant hanging over his head, he could not leave the country until the German courts decided whether he should be extradited to Spain or not. He was wanted for rebellion and misuse of funds. By Spanish law, the crime of rebellion can carry up to 30 years behind bars.

Arrest warrant withdrawn

After months of deliberation, the Schleswig-Holstein court in northern Germany court accepted the extradition request, but only for misuse of funds and not rebellion. Days later, however, the Spanish Supreme Court withdrew the European arrest warrant against Puigdemont and all other pro-independence leaders in exile. At the time, the deposed Catalan president criticized the move, stating that it was “evidence of the weakness” of Spain’s legal case.

Once he was able to move freely throughout Europe again, without setting foot in Spain where he would be arrested, sources close to Puigdemont already alluded to his intentions to return to Brussels. On Saturday morning, after four months in Germany, this was confirmed as he caught a Brussels Airlines flight from the port city of Hamburg back to the Belgian capital.

The frontrunner of the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) ticket during the December 21 election called by the Spanish government is due to meet with the current president Quim Torra at the Catalan government’s delegation to the European Union. Deposed MPs in exile will also be present. This will be the first time former president Puigdemont has entered the delegation since October last year when he left Catalonia after the declaration of independence. Despite his absence from the country and ongoing legal situation, Puigdemont was recently chosen as leader of the centre-right pro-independence group PDeCAT. 

The party is currently involved in a corruption scandal, however, with some members accused of influence peddling, bribery, and money-laundering in the so-called "3% case."