Spain withdraws Clara Ponsati arrest warrant

Remigio Civitarese
Luglio 21, 2018

It means Mr Puigdemont, who was in Germany awaiting extradition proceedings, and five of his former ministers who are scattered in Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland are free to move around Europe.

On Thursday, Spanish judge Pablo Llarena withdrew the extradition requests after a German court ruled last week that Mr Puigdemont could not be sent back to Spain for rebellion, only for embezzlement connected to the alleged misuse of public funds for a referendum on secession.

Spain dropped an worldwide arrest warrant for the fugitive ex-president of Catalonia and five other separatists today after it become clear other European Union countries did not agree they were guilty of rebellion.

A German court ruled a week ago that Puigdemont, 55, could be extradited to Spain to face a separate charge for misuse of public funds, but not for the rebellion charge.

If the six separatists return to Spain voluntarily, they would still face rebellion and sedition charges.

In a tweet, Puigdemont said the drop of the warrants "demonstrates the huge weakness of the court case".

Puigdemont and three others were charged with rebellion and a range of other lesser offences following Catalonia's declaration of independence from Spain. However, Llarena criticized the German court's decision, saying it showed "a lack of commitment" in pursuing the fugitives.

If Mr Puigdemont and the others were extradited only on charges of embezzlement, they would only be able to stand trial in Spain on those charges.

At the time, he had argued that Belgium could potentially reject some of the charges in his warrant - just like Germany did earlier this month.

"From the very beginning Clara Ponsati utterly refuted the charges she faced and Spain was accused of abusing the European arrest warrant for politically motivated prosecutions", he added.

It also dropped European arrest warrants for five other Catalan pro-independence leaders living overseas. Rebellion carries a maximum of 30 years in prison there.

"It's excellent news, with regards to my client Clara Ponsati, and obviously for Puigdemont. but we tread cautiously", lawyer Aamer Anwar told the Reuters news agency. New Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has met Puigdemont's successor - fervent separatist Quim Torra - in a thawing of relations between Madrid and Barcelona.

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