Politics 30/09/2021

Spanish Supreme Court insists Italy must hand over Puigdemont as European arrest warrant still in force

Supreme Court assumes possibility that Italian courts will wait for the resolution of the preliminary question raised at the CJEU

3 min
The investigating magistrate of the second chamber of the Supreme Court, Pablo Llarena, leaving the headquarters of the court, in Madrid, on the day that the sentence of the Process was notified.

MadridSpanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena insists and asks Italy to hand over Carles Puigdemont, since, he stresses, the European Arrest Warrant against him is still in force. This is a confirmation of his words last Friday, the day after the former president was arrested in Sardinia. Llanera has written to the Sassari court of appeal to clarify its interpretation of the judicial mess surrounding the Catalan leader. He already stated that the European Arrest Warrant remained in force and that the preliminary question sent to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on March 9 this year did not mean the warrant was withdrawn.

This time Llarena is explicit when it comes to blaming the Attorney General's Office as the cause of the mess at the European General Court (EGC), which understood the exact opposite. In its decision on July 30 to lift Puigdemont's immunity, the vice president of the European body stressed that it did not grant protection to the former president because there was no risk of arrest, since the Arrest Warrant had been suspended. He argued that he had been informed by the "Spanish authorities", which were not the Supreme Court, but the State Attorney's Office . "This is a non-judicial body that depends on the Ministry of Justice," Llarena remarked in his brief.

"The Attorney General informed the EGC that the arrest warrants issued by the examining judge were suspended. As has been said, this is not so. The decision to suspend a precautionary measure that was executive from 2019 is a decision which can only be taken by the examining judge and which has never been adopted. This situation would not be unknown to the Attorney General's Office, given that it is part of the criminal proceedings followed to the Supreme Court. The Attorney General's Office has never been notified of a possible decision to suspend the European Arrest Warrants, nor has the Attorney General's Office promoted this decision to take place. This mismatch of information could explain the incorrectness that appears in part of the decision of the EGC of 30 July on the validity of the Arrest Warrant," the magistrate writes .

Procedure suspended in Belgium

Llarena makes it clear that the extradition process is only suspended in Belgium. The court that had open cases against Puigdemont and Antoni Comín paralysed them when they acquired immunity as MEPs in January 2020 and were never reactivated. Only that of Lluís Puig, who was not an MEP, went ahead and the Belgian judge rejected the extradition. Puigdemont and Comín's loss of immunity of caused, immediately, a preliminary question by Llarena to the CJEU, and Belgium did not move react. That is, the proceedings against Puigdemont and Comín in the European capital remained suspended. "This delivery procedure is today the only one that is conditioned by the interpretation that the CJEU can offer in relation to the issues that were raised," explains Llarena.

The magistrate understands that Italy may follow the same path as Belgium. In the last point of his letter to Sassari court, through the Spanish representative to Eurojust, Judge José de la Mata, Llarena considers the scenario of Puigdemont asking the EGC to grant him precautionary immunity again and the court rejecting it, so that he remains in the situation in which he found himself since July 30. "Should the European Parliament's decision to withdraw Puigdemont's immunity persist (and only on the assumption that the Italian enforcement authority understood that the preliminary ruling question may affect its own decision), the enforcement proceedings would be halted until the CJEU ruled," he adds.

Llarena also foresees the possibility that the EGC does grant Puigdemont immunity as a precautionary measure, given that it has been found that the risk of arrest did exist, and also claims that in this case the procedure in Sassari is left in abeyance. Now, "that the measures that may be understood to be necessary to ensure that the material conditions necessary for an effective surrender continue to exist when Puigdemont has ceased to enjoy the privilege or immunity". "That is what was agreed by Belgium in a similar procedure," notes the examining magistrate .