Catalan police officers accompanying Puigdemont when arrested in Germany acquitted

Spanish National Court rejects 1.5-year sentence each for concealment requested by public prosecutor 

One of tha Catalan police officers during his trial, accused of concealment for accompanying former president Carles Puigdemont in Germany (by Pol Solà)
One of tha Catalan police officers during his trial, accused of concealment for accompanying former president Carles Puigdemont in Germany (by Pol Solà) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 23, 2021 01:48 PM

The two Catalan police officers who were accompanying former president Carles Puigdemont when he was arrested in Germany, in 2018, have been acquitted.

On Friday, the Spanish National Court rejected the 1.5-year sentences each for the crime of concealment requested by the public prosecutor.

The magistrate stated that the events are proved, but they would only be a crime if they had taken advantage of their public position, something they did not do since they were on holidays. 

Accompanying Puigdemont, who spent 12 days in a cell afterwards while Germany was considering Spain's extradition request, could also have been against law if the former president had incurred in a crime of rebellion - something the National Court in Madrid sees unlikely, since those former government members who did not exile ended up sentenced for sedition, but not rebellion. 

The two Mossos d'Esquadra agents said during the trial in early July that at no time did they escort Puigdemont, want to hide their movements from police, or thought they were committing any crime, as the lawyers had agreed to the surrender to the Belgian prosecution

The prosecutor can place an appeal before the same court. 

Requests to void the case

Prior to the questioning, the defense of the two police officers asked for the entire case to be annulled, alleging that they cannot be tried because the facts are not criminal in Germany. 

Thus, they consider that no criminal proceedings can be opened against them in Spain if it is not a crime in the country where the events took place, Germany. 

Nor could they be arrested, days after the events, as the prosecution had not filed any complaint against them, they argued. 

The prosecution said that the events are criminal in Germany and that no lawsuit was needed to arrest them, as the prosecution had already opened proceedings against them and brought them to the case in the National Court along with the police statement. 

Puigdemont almost 4 years in exile

Carles Puigdemont left Catalonia in the autumn of 2017 after the peak of the independence push that year. After the referendum was held on October 1 that year, the Catalan parliament then moved to declare independence that was immediately suspended with the intention of engaging in talks with the central Spanish government. 

All sovereign Catalan institutions and governmental bodies were then dissolved by the Spanish government, as the right-wing People’s Party, leading the administration at the time, imposed direct rule on Catalonia. 

Many independence leaders such as ex-president Carles Puigdemont and former ministers Toni Puig and Clara Ponsatí, among others, left Catalonia to go into exile. 

Others chose to stay, such as former vice president Oriol Junqueras and various other former ministers and activists. They were soon jailed, put on trial, convicted of sedition, and eventually pardoned at the end of June 2021 in order to foster social reconciliation with the Catalan government.

Puigdemont’s movements

The two police officers took advantage of their days off to travel to Waterloo on March 19 and there, on March 23, an "unidentified" person asked them to go look for Puigdemont and transfer him to Brussels. 

The defendants left Belgium in the morning driving the former president's car, which was followed by police authorities and was known to the press, and arrived in Stockholm at night. Here, they picked up Carles Puigdemont, arriving from Helsinki, and began their return to Brussels.

The prosecution reminded the court that the arrest warrant was issued when Puigdemont was in Helsinki on March 23, where he had traveled the day before from Switzerland. 

On March 25, German police (BKA) officers intercepted the vehicle in a motorway car park, on the border between Denmark and Hamburg. Once identified, they arrested Puigdemont "because there was an arrest warrant issued by the Spanish judicial authorities concerning his surrender." 

In Germany, Puigdemont spent 12 nights in prisonHis detention eventually backfired for Spain’s judiciary, as the Schleswig-Holstein court denied extraditing him for the crime of rebellion—the most serious accusation being leveled against pro-independence leaders—and only agreed to extradite him for misuse of funds, which would have meant he could only have been tried for misuse of funds. 

Spain’s Supreme Court eventually withdrew all European Arrest Warrants against Puigdemont and other Catalan politicians abroad, only to reopen the cases in October 2019. No outcome has been reached in their attempted extraditions yet.