FORMER Catalan Separatist leader Carles Puigdemont walked free from an Italian court on Monday after a judge delayed a ruling on Spain’s extradition request.
The former Catalan president who is now a serving MEP told reporters that he was ‘very happy’ with the decision as he left court in Sardinia.
Agostinangelo Marras, his lawyer in Italy, confirmed that his client is free to travel whilst awaiting a final decision on potential extradition to Spain.
Puigdemont, 58, was detained on the Italian island of Sardinia on September 23, where he was visiting the cultural festival of Adifolk in Catalan speaking Alghero, a small town of 45,000 people.
He was released the following day and was free to leave the island of Sardinia on condition that he would return on Monday, October 4 to attend the extradition hearing. After the judge delayed making a decision on the matter, he will have to return again for the final decision.
Puigdemont, alongside separatist leaders Clara Ponsatí and Toni Comín had their immunity lifted by the European Union’s general court back in March. The decision came after a petition by Spain’s Supreme court. The EU court said they had not demonstrated they were at real risk of arrest in Europe, and so immunity was unnecessary.
The detention comes at a time when Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is engaged in “peace talks” with regional leaders in Catalunya.
In October 2019, nine former leaders in Puigdemont’s government were sentenced to between 9 and 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds. However Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has pardoned the group in the hope of reducing political tensions. Puigdemont, alongside the other fugitives, are not eligible for the pardon as they have not yet faced a Spanish court.
The former Catalan president is currently fighting to maintain control and influence in his party back in Barcelona, after it lost power in the Catalan parliament. Puigdemont’s party, Together for Catalunya (JuntsxCat), a pro-separarist party which neither identifies as left or right, has lost control and is now a junior partner in a coalition with other separist parties.
On Sunday around 3,000 protesters met to mark the four-year anniversary of the general strike of October 3, 2017, and the Catalan independence referendum deemed unconstitutional by the Spanish state, the vote took place on October 1 2017 and resulted in days of violent clashes and unrest in Barcelona.
On Sunday protesters marched from Plaza de Francesc Macià to Passeig de Gràcia in the Catalan capital. Regional leader Laura Borràs told the protesters: “If a referendum united us, now it cannot separate us”.
Many of the protesters waved flags and displayed banners with messages such as “We demand independence”, “We’ll finish what we started”, and “Let’s set ourselves free”.
The issue of independence remains a controversial one in Catalunya. At the last regional election back in February, pro-independence parties garnered just over half of the vote, but only 53% of the electorate turned out to vote.
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