13th July 2024
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Spain expected to provide bodyguards for Puigdemont, still sought by Spanish Justice

Spain is expected to approve a request to provide bodyguards for the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont – who is in self-imposed exile in Brussels and currently still wanted by Spanish Justice – days after his party, JxCat, reached an agreement to back acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s bid for another term in exchange for an amnesty, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Tensions are running high in Spain over the controversial amnesty bill agreed with the Catalan pro-independence parties, that will exculpate around 400 politicians and activists involved in Catalonia’s bid for independence between 2012 and 2023. ALSO READ: Amnesty bill registered in Spanish Congress – full details.

Puigdemont, now an MEP, is still the subject of an extradition order for leading the failed independence attempt back in October 2017, and he is likely to be the most high profile beneficiary of the amnesty law.

His office first filed a request for ‘protection and security’ from the authorities in 2018 and has habitually refiled it without success.

According to the EFE news agency, however, the head of Puigdemont’s office, Josep Lluís Alay, on Monday asked again in a letter to the Catalan home affairs minister, Joan Ignasi Elena, to provide bodyguards to the former president of the Catalan government ‘given the increase in the danger and risk to his person’.

According to EFE, the Catalan police (the Mossos d’Esquadra) does not have powers to act outside of Spanish territory, and in order to provide an escort service in Belgium they require authorisation from the Ministry of the Interior in Madrid, which until now has always rejected it.

In an interview on Tuesday on Catalan radio RAC1, however, Spanish Presidency Minister Félix Bolaños said the request was likely to be approved, saying every Spanish citizen had a right to safety ‘no matter how many ideological differences there may be’.

Opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo of the right-wing People’s Party (PP) – who in addition to the far-right Vox party is leading protests against the amnesty, said that such a security agreement would be ‘surprising’.

‘(Puigdemont) wields enormous power,’ he told reporters. ‘He’s gone from having an arrest warrant for him to be handed over to the Spanish police to being escorted by the Spanish police.’

Puigdemont has been living in exile in Waterloo, Belgium since 2017, has been the target of taunts and insults when confronted by Spaniards who see him as the leader of an attempted coup.

In 2018, he was approached in a shopping centre in Copenhagen by a young Spaniard who asked him to kiss the Spanish flag. Puigdemont agreed, saying he had ‘no problem’ doing so.

To date, Puigdemont has successfully survived all attempts to extradite him back to Spain – from Belgium, Germany and also Sardinia (Italy). After a Belgian court declined to send him back in 2017, he was arrested the following year in Germany, but a court there also refused to extradite him.

Having secured the backing from the Catalan pro-independence parties, Sánchez, in power since 2018, looks assured of winning a new term in an investiture vote on Thursday. The prospect of amnesty has brought thousands of opponents to the streets for 12 days in a row.

ALSO READ: Feijóo vows to continue protests against amnesty ‘until there are new elections’.

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez faces backlash and tough legislature ahead due to Catalan deal.

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