The judicialization of the Catalan independence bid
Politics 23/07/2021

National High Court acquits the two mossos who accompanied Puigdemont to Germany

It rules they cannot be sentenced to one and a half years' imprisonment for an accessory after the fact offence, as the prosecution had intended

3 min
Carlos de Pedro and Xavier Goicoechea to the Audience .

MadridThe National High Court has acquitted the two police officers who accompanied the former president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, when he was arrested in Germany in March 2018, of an accessory after the fact crime. The ruling considers it accredited that the two agents helped Puigdemont aware that he was under investigation in Spain and that there was a Euro arrest warrant in place, but concludes that the facts cannot be classified as an accessory after the fact crime under Article 541.3 of the Criminal Code, as the lawyers had argued since the arrest of Carlos de Pedro and Xavier Goicoechea in Catalonia by the Spanish police, days after the journey through northern and central Europe. The prosecution had asked for up to a year and a half in prison for each of them, after deciding to reduce the sentence request by half in the final conclusions of the trial held earlier this month at the headquarters of the National High Court in San Fernando de Henares, on the outskirts of Madrid.

Why does the judge rule out the accessory after the fact crime? The sentence analyses article 451 of the Penal Code, which typifies this crime, and comes to the conclusion that they could only be convicted for attempting to cover up acts typified as rebellion, as the prosecution argued in the first accusation. And it considers that in no case did this happen, because the facts judged in the case of the Catalan independence bid were finally typified by the Supreme Court as a crime of sedition and not of rebellion, even though the former president Puigdemont was not on trial.

An accessory after the fact crime means that, "in the knowledge of the commission of a crime and without having intervened as a perpetrator or accomplice [...] the alleged perpetrators of a crime are helped to evade investigation by the authorities or their agents", and provided that two factors are present, which the head of the central criminal court, Jose Manuel Fernández-Prieto, believes are not present in this case. On the one hand, that the undercover is being prosecuted for "treason, murder of the king or queen or of any of their ascendants or descendants, as well as for genocide, crimes against humanity, against persons and property protected in the event of armed conflict, rebellion, terrorism, murder, piracy, human trafficking or illegal organ trafficking". It is on this point that the Prosecutor's Office initially used to accuse them of an accessory after the fact crime.

The key to rebellion and sedition

The second case would be if the Mossos had abused their public functions, but as the Public Prosecutor's Office did not refer to this, the judge ignores this section. For this reason, he stresses that, in order to convict for the crime of accessory after the fact, it would be necessary for "the act covered up to be constitutive of rebellion" and in no case does he foresee those that were "constitutive of a crime of sedition". However, he admits that it is "true and objective" that "the events that took place in Catalonia and known as the process [sic], the participation in which is attributed to the fugitive [Puigdemont]", were initially classified as rebellion. But the judge considers that it has an "unquestionable significance" in the case if the Supreme Court ends up convicting the pro-independence leaders for sedition, because this means that the most likely outcome is that the former president of the Generalitat, if he ends up being tried in Spain, will be tried for sedition.

"Given that the crime of sedition is not foreseen in the conduct described by the criminal type, only a judgement of acquittal of the accused can be handed down", concludes the sentence, which puts an end to the judicial journey of the two agents after three years of delays and extensions of the case and an initial accusation of up to three years of imprisonment.

Goicoechea and De Pedro were with Puigdemont, along with Junts senator Josep Maria Matamala and historian Josep Lluís Alay. The German police arrested the former president and released the other four occupants of the vehicle. It was not until they returned to Catalonia, three days later, that the National Police acted against them. In the case of Goicoechea, when he was leaving his home in Vilassar, and in the case of De Pedro, just as he left the plane after landing at El Prat from Brussels.