19th July 2024
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Supreme Court refuses amnesty for Puigdemont over misuse of public funds

The Spanish Supreme Court has refused to grant an amnesty to former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on a charge of misusing public funds, maintaining arrest warrants over his failed 2017 secession attempt.

Spanish MPs in May passed a controversial amnesty law aimed at drawing a line under years of efforts to prosecute those involved in the botched independence bid that triggered Spain’s worst political crisis in decades. ALSO READ: Controversial Catalan amnesty law gets final approval in Spanish Congress.

Blocking the amnesty for Puigdemont could complicate life for Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who relied on the Catalan pro-independence parties to secure a new term in office in November. ALSO READ: The PSOE and Junts sign a pact that will guarantee investiture of Pedro Sánchez.

The law is expected to affect some 400 people, most significantly Puigdemont, the Catalan president at the time of the independence bid, who then fled Spain to avoid prosecution.

In a statement, the court said judge Pablo Llarena, who is in charge of the case, ‘issued an order declaring the amnesty is not applicable to the crime of misuse of public funds’. It said it agreed to keep in place ‘the arrest warrants’ against him.

Any appeal must be made within three days.

Sánchez agreed to push through the amnesty bill in exchange for the parliamentary support of the Catalan pro-independence parties for him to serve a new four-year term in office.

After parliament voted to approve the amnesty law on 30 May, judges were given two months to apply the law by annulling the charges and cancelling any arrest warrants against the pro-independence politicians and activists.

But the courts must apply the amnesty on a case-by-case basis, making it a long and drawn-out process.

Last year, the Supreme Court dropped the sedition charges against Puigdemont and two others following a controversial criminal code reform. ALSO READ: Spain drops sedition charge against former Catalan president Puigdemont.

Prosecutors filed fresh charges against them of misuse of public funds and disobedience in connection with the independence bid.

In February, the court also opened a ‘terrorism’ investigation into Puigdemont over a string of mass street protests by a group called Tsunami Democràtic. Spain jailed 13 pro-independence leaders in 2019 over the protests. ALSO READ: Judges extend probes into Puigdemont’s alleged ‘Kremlin ties’ and ‘Tsunami terrorism’.

In his decision, Llarena said the amnesty law was applicable to the crime of disobedience, but could not be applied in the case of misappropriation of public funds because of two exceptions.

The law allows the amnesty to be applied if the funds were used to finance the pro-independence process, but not if the money was taken for personal gain or if it involved European Union funds.

For that reason, the arrest warrant for Puigdemont would remain in place ‘for the offence of misuse of public funds but not for disobedience’, the judge wrote.

The other case against Puigdemont involving so-called street ‘terrorism’ is being handled separately. ALSO READ: Judge asks Puigdemont to testify voluntarily and by video in terrorism probe.

Shortly after the announcement, Puigdemont posted a brief message on X, formerly Twitter, referring to ‘La Toga Nostra’ — comparing the robe-clad judges to Sicily’s Costa Nostra mafia.

Last month, Llarena informed police that the arrest warrant for Puigdemont would remain in force until a decision were made about whether amnesty can be applied in his case or not.

Many judges have expressed opposition to the amnesty law. Spain’s right-wing and far-right opposition has staged months of protests against it, some of which have turned violent. ALSO READ: Thousands protest in central Madrid over government’s Catalan amnesty bill.

It has also caused deep rifts within Spanish society and even within Sanchez’s own ruling Socialist party.

Click here for all our reports related to Catalan independence.

ALSO READ: Amnesty bill registered in Spanish Congress – full details.

ALSO READ: Puigdemont will still seek to become Catalan president, despite ‘pro-Spain win’.

ALSO READ: Puigdemont says he will return to Spain if he can be elected as Catalan president.

ALSO READ: Spanish Supreme Court officially opens ‘terrorism’ investigation of Carles Puigdemont.

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