Hieronder vind je de weblog van Gerber van der Graaf, ingenieur. Hij woont al een jaar of 22 in Catalonië en houdt sinds juni 2017 een weblog bij met beschouwingen over de politieke situatie - met name de vervolging van de Catalaanse politici. Met zijn goedvinden is dit artikel geïntegreerd in deze website, maar kan uiteraard ook ‘los’ worden bekeken.
13 juli 2023
The European judiciary recently ruled that Puigdemont and his ministers Comín and Ponsatí lose their legal immunity as members of the European Parliament (EP). In a very irregular procedure, the EP had decided this after the Spanish judiciary had asked for an arrest warrant to be issued against them. Puigdemont appealed against this and was provisionally proved right by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) until the lower European court, the General Court of Justice (EGC), would rule. This ruling came out last July 5th. Various (Dutch) media reported this, albeit far from complete, which may create a distorted picture of this affair.
Until now, the General Court has always ruled against the Catalans. This was then always corrected on appeal by the ECJ. In the ruling of last July 5, the Court even ignored the previous ruling of the ECJ. It seems that the General Court is strongly influenced by Spain and the European Parliament. It goes even further than what Spain’s Supreme Court judge, Llarena, is demanding (and will likely do again) for their extradition. The Court’s ruling now makes it impossible for Puigdemont to attend the plenary sessions of the EP in Strasbourg, something Judge Llarena never requested.
According to Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, the ruling of the EGC is such bad and biased that it will ease to appeal to the ECJ. Moreover, according to him, the Catalan MEPs have not lost their immunity because of this ruling. Because the Spanish law for sedition, of which they are suspected, has been changed to the law of ‘Serious disturbance of public order’. Therefore the Spanish judiciary has to request again at the EP to remove the immunity of Puigdemont.
In Belgium, Puigdemont and his ministers Comín and Ponsatí have a guarantee that they will never be extradited to Spain. Belgium has previously refused to extradite the minister of culture under Puigdemont, Luís Puig, (not an MEP) because the Spanish Supreme Court is unable to request his extradition and sentence him. Now Puig is being deprived of the fundamental right and opportunity to appeal. According to Belgium, a lower court, the one in Catalonia instead of the Supreme Court, should ask for his extradition. When Spain appealed the refusal of the court in Ghent to the Belgian Court of Cassation, it added that it doubted whether Puig would receive a fair trial in Spain. This is not only a direct slap in the face to the Spanish judiciary, but also breaks the mutual trust of the judiciary between the EU Member States, which is fundamental for the functioning of the Union. The ECJ agreed with the Belgian judiciary, but only had to substantiate better that Catalans are being systematically prosecuted by Spain. The ECJ introduced a new term and tool for this: an Objectively Identifiable Group (OIG) that is persecuted for its (political) ideas. For this reason, Puigdemont and his ministers will certainly not be extradited from Belgium to Spain.
In other EU countries, Puigdemont and his ministers, however, do run this risk when Llarena issues another European extradition order. In France, thanks to the Malaga agreement, they can even be arrested directly by the Spanish police without such a warrant and deported to Spain as their police forces can operate on each other’s territory. Spain and France agreed to this treaty in 2002 to prosecute ETA terrorists. For Spain, Puigdemont apparently falls into the same category as ETA. (And France allows her to do so). For this reason, Puigdemont was unable to attend the first plenary session of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on 9 July 2019. He then stayed on the other side of the bridge over the Rhine that connects France to Germany. The Spanish police were waiting for him on the French side to take him directly to Spain by plane without going through a French judge. Now this is playing out again: he can’t come to the current plenary and vote on things like the biodiversity law. This violates his democratic rights and those of his more than one million voters.
However, it is unclear whether judge Llarena will issue a new European arrest warrant in the short term. Although the fascist VOX party insists on this, it seems that he prefers to postpone it. In this way he keeps Puigdemont and his ministers in uncertainty meanwhile they cannot travel freely through Europe, including to Strasbourg. Moreover, he then avoids that Spain will be humiliated again. With the help of the ECJ ruling, the Belgian judiciary will create a European precedent that Catalans are being prosecuted in Spain for their political ideas. Within the EU this is not appreciated.