Spain’s Supreme Court has upheld its decision to indict former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont for the crimes of misuse of public funds and disobedience.
The court announced on Tuesday that it had rejected the public prosecutor’s request to charge Puigdemont with aggravated public disorder instead of disobedience.
The decision means there could follow another warrant sent out for his arrest in Spain, and in due course another international one, although Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium and is now an MEP, has so far been able to thwart multiple extradition attempts.
The review by the Supreme Court follows adapting the charges that Puigdemont was facing to the recently reformed Spanish penal code. ALSO READ: Spanish MPs vote to reform penal code amid constitutional controversy.
Puigdemont, who has been living in Brussels since the failed October 2017 independence push, is therefore still facing charges that could entail time behind bars, but potentially for fewer years. Misuse of public funds can carry prison time of between six months and up to five years if convicted, but disobedience only carries a disqualification from public office.
Nine Catalan politicians and activists were jailed for between 9-13 years by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2019, convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds for their role in the 2017 illegal referendum, with the verdicts causing widespread protests across Catalonia. In June 2021, the nine walked free from prison, following pardons granted by the government led by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, but they remained banned from holding public office.
Late last year, Spain passed a controversial criminal code reform that downgraded the two charges used against them, abolishing sedition and replacing it with that of aggravated public disorder, and also reducing the penalty for misuse of public funds. ALSO READ: Supreme Court maintains public office ban for 4 Catalan pro-independence leaders.
Before the new penal code came into effect, Puigdemont was facing sedition and misuse of funds charges – the combination of both originally meant a 13-year sentence for his former vice president in the 2017 cabinet, Oriol Junqueras, before the pardons were granted.
Puigdemont has said that the Supreme Court cannot try him due to his current status as MEP. His lawyer said that Spain’s judiciary would need to first ask for formal permission from the European Parliament before issuing an arrest warrant.
Yet, in his decision on Tuesday, Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena rejected these arguments, saying that Puigdemont was originally indicted in March 2018, before he became an MEP in June 2019.
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