Politics 25/09/2021

What can happen to Puigdemont from now on?

The former president's defence will ask the Luxembourg court to restore his immunity while a 60-day trial is underway in Italy

3 min
MEPs Clara Ponsatí, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín at a press conference at the European Parliament.

BrusselsCarles Puigdemont was released from Sassari prison this Friday at 6pm, a situation he had already been through in Belgium and also in Germany. The defence of the former president, specifically the lawyer Josep Costa, is not at all surprised by the arrest of the leader of Junts in statements to ARA: "We already knew that this was happening, in our allegations we already told the TGUE that the Supreme Court had not officially suspended the Euro-orders, that within the Schengen alert system they were still active". For this reason, they already have all the documents ready to ask the Luxembourg court for the return of Puigdemont's immunity through precautionary measures. According to lawyer Gonzalo Boye, they will present them this Friday.

The release of the leader of Junts has come after the examining magistrate of the Supreme Court, Pablo Llarena, received the official communication of the arrest and placement at the disposal of the Court of Appeal of Sassari. The magistrate urged the Spanish representative to Eurojust to transfer the 14 October 2019 Euro warrant against Puigdemont, considering that "the judicial proceedings from which the Euro warrant derives are active". It has also referred the preliminary ruling question raised on 9 March before the Court of Justice of the European Union, reports Ot Serra from Madrid. A procedure that "does not change the current situation of the proceedings", Llarena also stressed, in view of the legal discrepancies over whether the European arrest warrants were suspended by the consultation in Luxembourg. The documents must be translated into Italian and it is estimated that they can be sent next Monday, the 27th, to the court on which Puigdemont now depends.

Following this procedure, the Italian judge has summoned Puigdemont on 4 October, but has given him absolute freedom of movement, so he can leave Sardinia if he wants to. This case is therefore different from those of Germany and Belgium, when the authorities of both countries prohibited the former president from leaving their jurisdiction until a decision on extradition was taken. Now, however, with the 4 October summons, a new process begins in Italy in which the judge will hear the parties to decide whether or not to hand Puigdemont over to the Spanish authorities. The battle of arguments between Puigdemont's defence and the Supreme Court was key here, as while the former argue that the European arrest warrant is suspended, the latter, which is the competent authority to issue or withdraw European arrest warrants, argues the opposite.

As the European Arrest Warrants regulation states, there are "strict" time limits, precisely to ensure that a person is not held in judicial custody for too long. "The country in which the person is arrested has to take a final decision on execution within 60 days if the person does not accept surrender". If the person accepts extradition, the decision has to be taken within 10 days. These rules are common throughout the European Union and therefore also apply to Italy.

"It could happen that he is released and a provisional file is opened to hear the parties," said Costa this morning, who recalled that the Italian judge could even consider the need to refer a new question to the Luxembourg court for a preliminary ruling. The Sassari magistrate could also ask the Spanish authorities for clarification if he considers it appropriate. This would also mean extending the proceedings for a more uncertain period of time. This time, however, it differs from Germany because while the German judge was deciding Puigdemont could not leave the country for four months.

What seems more feasible, however, taking into account the text of the resolution of the vice-president of the General Court of the European Union, is that the defence of the former president will quickly request the precautionary measures again (this Friday, according to Boye) and the court based in Luxembourg will grant them. "The president has a meeting of the European Parliament's trade committee on Monday", Costa reminds us.

"The MEPs retain the possibility of bringing a new action if, after this act, the alleged harm becomes sufficiently probable, in particular in the event that they are arrested by an enforcement authority of a member state or that action is taken to hand them over to the Spanish authorities", said the text of the vice-president of the General Court of the European Union on the option to file interim measures of protection.

Moreover, it should be remembered that the immunity for travel as an MEP was not withdrawn, as confirmed by the TGUE itself in its resolution. In this regard, Gonzalo Boye explained that it would also be possible for Puigdemont to be provisionally released in Italy and that, while awaiting the judge's decision, he could travel in accordance with his obligations as an MEP. However, Boye has expressed confidence that this time the process will be shorter than it was in Germany because they already have three years of experience.