See end of report for update.
Spain’s public prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to issue a new European Arrest Warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former minister Toni Comín.
The two, alongside another former Catalan minister, Clara Ponsatí, are currently all members of the European Parliament, but had their parliamentary immunity as MEPs stripped earlier this month.
Spanish prosecutors believe that, despite the fact that the ruling over their immunity can be appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), such an appeal ‘does not have a suspensive effect’.
‘One day you are decisive in order to form a Spanish government, the next day Spain orders your arrest,’ Puigdemont tweeted in English [see below] after news of the prosecutors seeking a new arrest warrant just hours after Spain’s general election results became clear.
His party, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), has become crucial as the potential kingmaker following Sunday’s election, as the results created a hung parliament. ALSO READ: With Sánchez and Feijóo both claiming victory in the election … what happens next?
Neither the left- or right-wing blocs won enough seats to form a majority, meaning deals will need to be struck if Pedro Sánchez is to continue as prime minister. JxCat officials have already said they will want something in return for doing a deal with Sánchez.
The prosecutor’s office is asking for arrest warrants to be issued for the crimes of serious misuse of public funds and disobedience.
Previously, Puigdemont was wanted for sedition, but this was removed from the Spanish penal code in 2022, partially replaced by an expanded crime of ‘aggravated public disorder.’
Prosecutors have already ruled out that the events of Catalonia’s independence push in 2017 constituted ‘aggravated public disorder,’ and as such, Puigdemont and Comín are now only wanted for the lesser crimes of misuse of funds and disobedience.
Background to Catalan political conflict
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.
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.
The Supreme Court will not issue an arrest warrant for Puigdemont until the CJEU decides whether it will hear a potential appeal regarding his loss of parliamentary immunity, which could be temporarily restored in the meantime. Both Puigdemont and Comín have until 15 September to appeal the current CJEU ruling.
One day you are decisive in order to form a Spanish government, the next day Spain orders your arrest. https://t.co/7e33rCzd6S— krls.eth / Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) July 24, 2023