Supreme Court urges arrest of accompanying MEPs as Puigdemont faces extradition hearing

Former president back in Sardinia after his arrest on September 23 with his defense 'confident' procedure will be dismissed

MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí address the media in Sassari, October 4, 2021 (by Marina López)
MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí address the media in Sassari, October 4, 2021 (by Marina López) / ACN

ACN | Sassari

October 4, 2021 01:33 PM

The Spanish Supreme Court has urged the arrest of the two pro-independence MEPs in exile who are accompanying former leader Carles Puigdemont to his hearing before the court of appeal in Sassari on the Italian island of Sardinia.

Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, who were Catalan ministers during the peak of the independence crisis in 2017, also went into exile after the declaration of independence and have been wanted by Spain ever since.

Both officials, now MEPs, have accompanied Puigdemont on his trip to Sardinia to face the extradition hearing which began on Monday at 11am.

The Supreme Court magistrate in charge of the attempts to extradite them, Pablo Llarena, urged the same Sardinian court to arrest them because both Comín and Ponsatí are also facing active European arrest warrants.

According to him, the situation of all three is the same – yet, while Puigdemont was arrested in September when he first traveled to the island, Comín was stopped for several minutes by Italian police on Sunday, but eventually waved through. Clara Ponsatí did not have any trouble accompanying the former president either.

The court has to decide whether or not to activate extradition proceedings against Puigdemont, as requested by Supreme Magistrate Pablo Llarena.

The former president's defense team is "confident" that the Italian judiciary will close the case.

Detained and released

Puigdemont was arrested in Sardina last week, only to be provisionally released a day later. On Friday he asked the General Court of the European Union to provisionally restore his political immunity as a member of the EU parliament.

His arrest could damage the ongoing talks between the Catalan and Spanish governments.

Several countries would not extradite Puigdemont

Germany, Austria, Belgium, Lithuania and Switzerland have all, at various points over the last four years, advised Spanish authorities that they would not extradite Puigdemont.

Through the Sirene police cooperation system, authorities of these countries have informed the Spanish judiciary that they would not hand the former president over.

Swiss authorities said: "The facts described do not constitute - at first sight - an extraditable crime, under Swiss law" but "appear to be a political crime or a crime related to a political crime."

In February 2020, Germany advised Spain that "according to the German Ministry of Justice the wanted person enjoys diplomatic immunity as a member of the European Parliament".

This is according to documents relating to the Supreme Court case against Puigdemont, revealed by the online newspaper Vilaweb on Friday and seen by the Catalan News Agency (ACN).