A Spanish judge has dropped sedition charges against former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont for his role in the region’s illegal secession push in 2017 that brought Spain’s most serious political crisis for decades.
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena took the step, which also included four other Catalan pro-independence politicians involved in the events of 2017, because changes to Spain’s sedition law that have taken effect mean it no longer covers their alleged wrongdoing, the court said in a statement Thursday.
The crime of ‘aggravated public disorder’ has replaced sedition in the criminal code, but judge Llarena has already ruled out that the events of 2017 constitute this crime.
However, the judge maintained the charges of misuse of public funds and disobedience, the court said. Misuse of public funds can carry prison time of between six months and up to five years if the politicians are convicted, but disobedience does not.
The court has dropped the most serious crime of sedition that former Puigdemont, as well as other former officials Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Lluís Puig, and Marta Rovira, had previously been accused of.
It means that Puigdemont and his associates who fled the country five years ago would still have to stand trial in Spain if they return, albeit for crimes that carry a lower sentence. Puigdemont lives in Belgium where he is a European Parliament member.
Spanish government efforts to extradite him have failed so far, and it’s unclear if the changes made by Llarena could increase the chances of him being sent back by Belgian officials.
Llarena has previously attempted to have Puigdemont extradited from Germany and Belgium, but in each case, the request was rejected.
Last month, Spanish MPs approved controversial reforms to the crimes of sedition and embezzlement in a move by Spain’s ruling coalition between the PSOE socialists and left-wing Podemos group to retain the parliamentary support of a pro-independence Catalan party (ERC) and ease tensions in the wealthy northeastern region.
Since becoming premier in June 2018, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has adopted a strategy of ‘defusing’ the conflict in Catalonia following the failed 2017 independence bid.
Nine Catalan politicians and activists were eventually jailed for between 9-13 years by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2019, convicted of sedition and misuse of funds, with the verdicts causing widespread protests across Catalonia. In June 2021, the nine walked free from prison, following the pardons granted by the government led by Sánchez.
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