Spain: Puigdemont wants to be “free” after sedition charges are dropped

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday dropped sedition charges against Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont after a reform of the country’s criminal code repealed the crime.

Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain, still faces charges of disobedience and embezzlement, which carry penalties of up to eight years in prison. Sedition was punishable by a maximum prison term of 15 years.

Madrid tried, in vain, to obtain the extradition of Carles Puigdemont during the latter’s prolonged stays in Germany, Belgium and Italy.

Spanish Supreme Court Justice Pablo Llarena said in a statement on Thursday that he would submit a new extradition request to Belgian authorities to have Carles Puigdemont tried on less serious charges – a request, he said. he added, which will depend on decisions by European courts on Puigdemont’s immunity and on the possibility of requesting his extradition several times.

In a video posted on Twitter, Carles Puigdemont said he intended to fight “to the end” against his extradition.

“I will not return in handcuffs or rely on clemency from a Spanish judge. I will fight to return as a free man,” he said.

Spain amended its penal code late last year to remove the landmark sedition law, under which some separatist politicians were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison, after the constitutional crisis caused in 2017 by the referendum on the independence of Catalonia and the unilateral proclamation of the Catalan Republic.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who later pardoned those convicted over the events, said the measure should further ease the political conflict between Madrid and Catalonia.

In the eyes of opposition parties, this measure aims to guarantee the coalition led by the socialists of Pedro Sanchez the continued support of the independence parties in close parliamentary votes.

Carles Puigdemont, who went into exile in Belgium at the end of 2017, has been a member of the European Parliament since 2019.

(Report Emma Pinedo and David Latona; French version Augustin Turpin, edited by Blandine Hénault and Jean Terzian)

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