Italy arrests ex-Catalan regional prime minister Puigdemont for extradition to Spain

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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont leaves Sassari prison in Sardinia, Italy on Friday September 24, 2021 (AP Photo / Gloria Calvi)

Yesterday, an Italian judge ordered the release of former Catalan regional prime minister Carles Puigdemont after his brutal arrest Thursday evening, as he arrived at Alghero airport on the Italian island of Sardinia. Puigdemont faces an extradition hearing on October 4, although Italian press reports indicate that no charges will be brought if he leaves Italy before that date.

In 2017, he fled to Belgium after the brutal police crackdown in Madrid against the referendum on the independence of Catalonia he had organized. The crackdown left more than 1,000 peaceful voters injured. There followed threats to impose a state of emergency on Catalonia, the detention of senior officials of the Puigdemont regional government and a show trial that sentenced a dozen of them to ten years in prison for sedition. If extradited, Puigdemont faces decades in prison on false charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement of public funds.

The current leader of the right-wing Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, who was in government at the time, vowed that Puigdemont would end up “like Companys”. Lluís Companys was the Catalan regional prime minister who declared independence in 1934. Exiled at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Companys was captured by the Nazi Gestapo in occupied Paris in 1940 and handed over to the Spanish fascist regime of Francisco Franco, who had tortured, beaten and shot him.

The arrest, stemming from the most reactionary political interests, was a blatant undemocratic operation by Europe’s police state machine, apparently carried out behind the back of the Italian government, and was quickly revealed to have no legal basis. .

Puigdemont was arrested by an Italian Riflemen police as he got off the plane as he arrived in Sardinia to attend Adifolk, a Catalan cultural festival in Alghero.

The Barcelona daily La Vanguardia wrote: “The members of the Puigdemont team who were waiting in Alghero at the airport saw an unusual deployment of Riflemen and already warned of what could happen. Two plainclothes officers then asked for his identity documents and took him first to the airport police station, then as a detainee for [Alghero’s] police station. Italian police sources explained that the arrest was carried out by the Sardinian border police. He then spent the night in Bancari prison, before being released yesterday by the Sassari Court of Appeal.

The Italian police reportedly detected the arrival of Puigdemont via the integrated passenger name registration system (PNR) and the Schengen information system (SIS). The first collects passenger information, which is transferred to police authorities in EU member states to search for criminals. The second, the SIS, is a large-scale information system intended to facilitate cooperation between national border control authorities, customs and police in Europe to deny entry to a person or to search and arrest a person. for which a European detention order has been issued.

Puigdemont is said to have a data sheet in the SIS recording the arrest and surrender order issued in October 2019 by the judge of the Spanish Supreme Court Pablo Llarena. This order was however suspended, although Llarena told the Sardinian judge that the order had never been “deactivated”.

Llarena’s argument does not hold water, however, having been explicitly rejected even by the Spanish authorities themselves.

Puigdemont’s immunity as a member of the European Parliament was lifted last March in a vote sponsored by the European conservative and reformist group of the Spanish fascist party Vox and supported by liberals, conservatives and social democrats . He appealed the decision, but in a ruling at the end of July, the EU General Court said there was no immediate risk of arrest as the detention order was suspended. The prosecutor representing Spain at the European Court, Sonsoles Centeno, said last July: “There is no procedure to execute the aforementioned arrest warrants.

Arguing that Puigdemont was not the subject of an imminent arrest, the European Court of Justice rejected his appeal. Since July, he has traveled freely in Europe, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and France. In France, he rented a summer house and went to the National Assembly in Paris, where he gave a press conference and publicly met with various deputies of the French National Assembly. He has never been arrested, let alone questioned.

Moreover, attempts by the Spanish Supreme Court to secure the extradition of Puigdemont and two of his former regional advisers, Antoni Comín and Carla Ponsatí, who have also fled Spain and are also MEPs, have already failed. The Belgian, German and Scottish courts, as well as the Court of Justice of the European Union, have all rejected the extradition of Comin, Ponsatí and Puigdemont.

After the Riflemen arrested Puigdemont, the parties in power of the Italian government denounced the decision, specifying that they had not been consulted. Former far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini de la Lega opposed the arrest, saying: “Italy does not lend itself to blood feuds from others.

Democratic Party Senator Tatjana Rojc declared: “The arrest on Italian soil of a MEP who should be able to travel freely is shocking: the handcuffs on Puigdemont are a serious act and an unworthy image of a country of law.

This underlines that Puigdemont’s arrest appears to have been an operation of unelected forces in the police state machine. According to the far-right news site OKDiario, the arrest took place because the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI) was alerted to Puigdemont’s trip by the SIS, after which the Spanish authorities contacted the Italian police. . A security source told OKDiario: “what country that detects [a fugitive] what to do is to inform the police of the country which ordered his capture and to alert the police of the country of destination of the fugitive.

This fascist arrest of Puigdemont caused mass anger in Catalonia. In Barcelona, ​​thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Italian consulate to demand his release. Catalan Regional Prime Minister Pere Aragonès issued an official statement calling for “freedom for President Puigdemont and all those facing repression”.

Significantly, however, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) -Podemos government approved the police state operation against Puigdemont. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appeared at a press conference on Friday, saying Puigdemont “must be brought to justice” and “be tried”. Sánchez added that the Spanish government “respects all legal proceedings, whether they are opened in Spain, Europe or in this case in Italy, and will comply with all judicial decisions that may be taken”.

Puigdemont’s arrest is a reactionary attack on democratic rights, revealing the vast police state machine the ruling class is building across Europe as it moves rapidly to the right. Its Catalan nationalist policy itself is bankrupt and reactionary, striving to divide workers in Spain along ethnic and linguistic lines. However, the main target of the fascist forces pursuing Puigdemont is the working class.

Vox, the military, and the rest of the Spanish political establishment, including the PSOE-Podemos government, have all supported the EU’s “herd immunity” policy of allowing the virus to spread during the COVID-19. This has led to more than 1.2 million confirmed deaths from COVID-19 across Europe and more than 100,000 additional deaths in Spain during the pandemic. It is confirmed that more than 10% of the Spanish population is infected with the coronavirus.

After mass strikes broke out across Europe in March 2020, as workers demanded the right to shelter in their homes to stop contagion and mass deaths in the first weeks of the pandemic in Europe, far-right forces leading the anti-Catalan campaign were dismayed. Large sections of the officer corps and the leadership of the Vox party began to campaign for a coup aimed at crushing the national opposition. In December, discussions on WhatsApp leaked to the press in which Spanish Air Force officers said they were “good fascists” and wanted to kill “26 million people” in Spain.

It is essential to mobilize the working class across Europe to defend democratic rights and against the fascist and anti-scientific policies of the ruling elites on the pandemic. This requires advancing the call for the immediate release of Puigdemont and his freedom to go wherever he sees fit.


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