Puigdemont asks EU court to restore his immunity ahead of extradition hearing

Former Catalan president was arrested in Sardinia following the suspension of his MEP privileges

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont leaves the Sàsser penitentiary in Sardinia (by Laura Cortès)
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont leaves the Sàsser penitentiary in Sardinia (by Laura Cortès) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 1, 2021 06:26 PM

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has asked the General Court of the European Union to provisionally restore his political immunity as a member of the EU parliament ahead of an extradition hearing next Monday in Sardinia, where he was detained a week ago.

Living in exile since the failed independence push in 2017, Puigdemont is wanted by Spanish courts under sedition charges for calling a self-determination referendum deemed as illegal.

Despite residing in Belgium, Puigdemont was elected as an MEP representing Catalonia at the European parliament and enjoyed immunity from prosecution, but was stripped of his political privileges following an extradition request from Spain.

What was Puigdemont doing in Sardinia?

Puigdemont traveled to Sardinia from Brussels, his residence since October 2017, on Thursday afternoon to visit the Adifolk folklore and cultural event taking place in the Catalan-speaking city of Alghero. The former Catalan president was due to meet with the head of the autonomous region of Sardinia.

At the airport, he was met by Italian law-enforcement officials who brought him into custody responding to an extradition request by Spain. 

Why was he arrested?

This is far from clear. Spanish judicial sources say the EU arrest warrant against Puigdemont is active at the moment. However, Puigdemont's defense argues that when Spain's Supreme Court issued a request for clarification on warrants to EU courts in March to know how to proceed after several defeats, the arrest warrant was suspended.

Indeed, the European General Court explicitly stated on July 30 that the arrest warrant against Puigdemont was considered suspended when Spain raised its question to the judges in Luxembourg in March.

EU court thought in July that Puigdemont would not be arrested

Yet, magistrates in Luxembourg argued that undoing the suspension of his immunity was not necessary as they had not "seen enough probability" that he could be detained anywhere in Europe. 

Puigdemont and the other pro-independence MEPs are not exposed to "irreversible and serious harm," the court said on July 30. 

In the same judge's decree, magistrates considered that the arrest warrant against Puigdemont was suspended when Spain raised its question to Luxembourg in March and suggested that the politician would be able to request his immunity to be provisionally returned again if he were detained at any time.

Now, the former president's defence wants to trigger it with the petition filed on Friday. 

Will he be extradited now?

On Friday afternoon, he was brought to the Court of Appeal of Sassari, which had the authority to decide whether he remains under arrest and what the next steps will be, if any, on his extradition procedure.

Puigdemont was released from custody and he is free to travel anywhere within the European Union, but must return on October 4 for an extradition hearing.