How long, Llarena, will you abuse our patience?
BarcelonaSpanish Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena has perplexed the European courts and is the main responsible for the fact that the international image of the Spanish state is at a low ebb, at least in the legal sphere. His obsession to achieve the extradition of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has even led him, in the case of Italy, to try to deceive the European General Court (EGC), which thought that the European arrest warrant was suspended because the Attorney General's Office had said so. This Monday, however, Sassari's Court of Appeal has decided to suspend the extradition procedure until the EGC rules on Puigdemont's immunity and the Court of Justice of the European Union rules on the pre-trial question Llarena submitted when a Belgian court rejected the extradition of former minister Lluís Puig.
Llarena's defeat on Monday, however, is particularly humiliating. First of all because the Italian police ignored the Spanish judge's request to also arrest former ministers Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, who travelled to Sardinia to support Puigdemont. And secondly because the Italian Prosecutor's Office, contrary to its usual behaviour, aligned itself with the former president's defence asking for the suspension of the procedure. It should be stressed that, usually, prosecutors always act on behalf of the states requesting extradition. But the discredit of Llarena and Spanish justice in general is so great that not even his European colleagues have the heart to defend his position in court.
Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, stressed yesterday that they had "reasons to be very happy", since it has been shown that the former president's defence has been successful. It is technical defence that faces, on the other side, a highly politicised justice system. This politicisation has had a surreal episode this Monday when an Italian lawyer has tried to appear at the hearing on Vox's behalf, which the court has rejected from the outset.
Until now, the Spanish nationalist right has wanted to frame the difficulties in the extradition as part of the bad historical relationship between Belgium and Spain. But it's not just Belgium. It's Germany, it's the United Kingdom, and now Italy. These are not minor countries, but mature democracies; some, as in the case of Germany and Italy, were born after the Second World War and have renounced their authoritarian past. In Spain, however, democracy did not take hold by making a tabula rasa of Francoism, especially relating to the justice system, nor has the political right cut its ties with the past nor freed itself from its authoritarian DNA, as Pablo Casado demonstrated on Sunday in Valencia. Both are particularly interested in derailing any possibility of a negotiated solution to the conflict and consider Llarena a kind of hero of an exclusionary and uniform homeland.
If the Supreme Court wants to stop being permanently ridiculed, it would have to remove Llarena from the case and be scrupulous with the procedures and the tempo of European justice.