A court in Schleswig-Holstein has asked Germany’s High Court to extradite Carles Puigdemont to Spain. Those judges will have the final say on Catalonia’s former president, who has been in jail since March 25.
“It’s still too early to understand when the judges will produce the verdict,” says a spokesperson for the public prosecutor, after transferring the Puigdemont case to the higher court. It’s not clear if the courts will find an equivalent in German law of the crimes Puigdemont was accused of in the European arrest warrant. “The Spanish crime of rebellion is similar to the high treason crime in our penal code, although formulated differently,” said the prosecutor.
Merkel’s government has kept quite. Justice Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) only says she will keep following the strategy the Grand Coalition agreed before Easter, without tampering with the judiciary. “Otherwise, it would be an abuse of federal power against the judges who need to make a decision with full autonomy.”
That’s a good lesson on the separation of powers in a social democracy, but it’s also evidence that the government has no intention to use his veto power on extradition, although the German constitution gives it one.
Thus, Puigdemont remains all by himself facing his destiny — a large part of which has already been written, in spite of his Spanish lawyer’s plea. “He fears for his safety in Spanish prisons,” his lawyers Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas told Catalan radio Tuesday, renewing his accusations that the Rajoy government is guilty of a “violation of fundamental rights.”
Hence, Puigdemont’s “political prisoner” status — which is what over 300 protesters sought when they called for his released on Easter. They unrolled a banner in front of the Brandenburg Gate demanding “Freedom for Catalan political prisoners.”
While waiting for the High Court sentence, Puigdemont’s lawyers are still working at the 85-page document contesting the accusations of the Kiel tribunal — including the crime of embezzlement (using public funds for the independence referendum) called for by Spanish judges. The Schleswig-Holstein region’s highest court will have to speak out on this too, deciding whether to ratify the Catalan leader’s custody. It already prolonged it Tuesday after deciding there was a “risk of escape.”
Meanwhile, the political case is controversial in Berlin. The Linke is strongly against extradition. On Easter, MPs Diether Dehm, party leader on EU politics, and human rights spokesperson Zaklin Nastic spent about one hour with Puigdemont in his cell in Neumünster prison. It was an act of political solidarity as well as a parliamentary inspection to verify his health conditions, which remain “good”; but on the occasion they also told him of the Bundestag’s Scientific Service opinion that political prisoners cannot be extradited, even if international agreements ask to.
This is the Parliament’s last feeble tool to block Puigdemont’s deportation. Otherwise, an autopilot will carry on the work. It will lead to a European arrest warrant. In that case, the last resort is the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.
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