Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been living in Belgium since 2017 and was visiting Sardinia at the time of his arrest.
Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been arrested in Italy, his lawyer and an aide said, adding that Madrid ruled unconstitutionally four years after fleeing Spain after the independence referendum.
The member of the European Parliament (MEP) was due to appear in court on Friday for a hearing on whether he could be extradited to Spain to face charges of sedition.
The Catalan leader – who has been in Belgium since the 2017 referendum – was detained in Alghero, Sardinia, his chief of staff, Josep Luis Ale, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“On arrival at Alghero Airport, he was arrested by Italian police. Tomorrow [Friday], He will appear before the judges of the Court of Appeal of Sassari, who will decide whether he will be released or he will be extradited.
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, wrote on social media that the exiled separatist leader was arrested on arrival in Italy, where he was traveling in his power as MEP.
He said the arrests were made on the basis of a warrant issued in October 2019 which has since been suspended.
Puigdemont, 5ig, was wanted in Spain on charges of sedition in an attempt to separate the Catalan region from Madrid through a referendum in 2011.
He was arrested a week after the left-wing Spanish government and regional Catalan authorities resumed talks to find a solution to Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
Immunity has been canceled
In March, the European Parliament withdrew immunity for Puigdemont and two other independent-backed MEPs, a decision upheld by the European Union’s general court in July.
However, the decision of the European Parliament is under appeal and the final verdict of the EU court has not yet come.
Madrid “paid tribute to the Italian authorities and the court’s decision” after his arrest on Thursday.
The Spanish government said in a statement that “the arrest of Mr Puigdemont is in line with an ongoing judicial process that applies to any EU citizen who must be held accountable in court.”
The statement added that Puigdemont “must work for justice like any other citizen”.
President and MEP KRLS He was arrested tonight in Alguar, Sardinia after arriving at the airport although there is no active EAW against him. Either the Italian police made a mistake or the Spanish Supreme Court lied to the European Court of Justice. Scandalous. #Frippuigdemont
– Janne Riitakorpi (anJanneRiitakorpi) September 23, 2021
The new Catalan president, Pere Aragon, is a separatist but more moderate than his predecessor, whom he has called Puigdemont’s “oppressor.”
“In the face of persecution and judicial persecution, strong condemnation. It needs to stop, ”he wrote on Twitter.
He added that “self-control” was the “only solution”.
In addition to Puigdemont, former Catalan regional ministers Tony Cumin and Clara Ponsati have also been charged in Spain with sedition.
The October 2017 referendum was held by Catalonia’s separatist regional leadership despite the Madrid ban, and the process was interrupted by police violence.
A few weeks later, the leadership announced short-term independence, prompting Puigdemont to flee abroad.
Others in Spain were arrested and tried.
However, Puigdemont did not benefit from the pardon granted in June to nine freedom fighters imprisoned in Spain.