The future of Carles Puigdemont is in the hands of a Sardinian court. In the coming months, the Sardinian judges will decide if the Catalan former president is handed over and tried in Spain or if, as has already happened in Germany, his arrest will become a new international failure for Judge Pablo Llarena. Another possibility is that the end of this story ends up being written on the bench of the Supreme Court, but neither will that trial be the same as the one that took his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and the rest of the independent leaders to jail. Many things have changed since Puigdemont left for Belgium four years ago. There is already a final sentence against his former colleagues in the Government, the pardons have been signed and the political scene has completely changed.
Analysis – Ten keys to the arrest in Sardinia of Carles Puigdemont
The fundamental change, from the day he started his march to Belgium, is that the Supreme Court has already issued a series of sentences for the same acts. The sentence declares many things proven that do not benefit the former president at all, but leaves the accusation of rebellion out of the picture. The crime for which the Prosecutor’s Office bet from the first moment and that served to disqualify those political leaders long before the sentence has disappeared from the equation: the Supreme Court understood that the independence leaders wanted to separate Catalonia from the rest of Spain, but without resort to violence to achieve it.
It is an essential change at the level of penalties. In the case of Oriol Junqueras, for example, the sum of sedition and embezzlement resulted in a 13-year prison sentence, just over half of what the Prosecutor’s Office initially requested for rebellion. If Puigdemont is finally tried, the October 2019 sentence guarantees that, except for a procedural pirouette, he will sit on the bench accused of sedition and embezzlement.
This attenuating aspect of a hypothetical conviction contains an aspect that also affects the future of Puigdemont’s proceedings for the worse. The same sentence avoided citing the former president in the proven facts since he was not being tried but declared criminal all the decisions of the Government and the independence bloc that he headed: the disconnection laws that had his signature, the referendum that he called and the Unilateral Declaration of Independence that he signed, announced and suspended.
The judges of the Supreme Court left in writing that there were violent acts in the streets of Catalonia during the day of the illegal referendum of October 1, 2017, as well as previously in the massive concentrations of September 20 in Barcelona in front of several ministries, but that it existed an “absolute insufficiency” to declare independence. The referendum was “a decoy” and the DUI “symbolic and ineffective” and that will have to face the expresident.
This absence of violence to speak of rebellion is reinforced by the National Court and the acquittal of Josep Lluís Trapero. In a forceful way, the judges acquitted the Mossos commanders denying that “they had tried to prevent or hinder compliance” with the resolutions of the Justice during the independence fall of 2017. There where the Supreme Court saw a coordinated action by the Government trying to involve to the autonomous police, the National Court left arguments of great value for Carles Puigdemont.
Extradition and pardons
This fundamental change in the processing of the case will also have an effect on the extradition process launched by the Italian courts. The German, Belgian and Scottish courts have made it clear that rebellion is not a valid option for a surrender, and they have also called into question sedition, for example, in the case of Clara Ponsatí. In addition, still at the international level, Puigdemont is awaiting a final decision from the General Court of the European Union on his parliamentary immunity.
The political landscape has also changed a lot since 2017 and this has had consequences in the judicial process. Last June the Government decided to pardon the nine convicted of sedition by the Supreme Court and prevent them from continuing to serve their sentence behind bars in exchange for the commitment not to commit another crime for several years.
These pardons do not affect the process that Puigdemont will face, not even in the event of being convicted, but they keep one unknown: will Carles Puigdemont be pardoned if he is finally sentenced for sedition?
The political map
The political equation is not the same as it was when Puigdemont left Spain escorted by his Government. Where before there was a Generalitat de Catalunya dominated by its party with the support of ERC, now there is a reverse Catalan executive with a Pere Aragonès (ERC) at the helm who has become a partner of the central government to carry out investiture and General State Budgets. There is also a dialogue table from which members of his party have been excluded for now.
The judicial party has just started a new phase and the resolution is still far away: even in the event that the Italian courts decide to process the possible extradition, it is something that can drag on for months. That is assuming it is not put on hold until a final decision on your immunity is made. But if he returns to Spain, Carles Puigdemont will find himself in a very different scenario with a less inflamed judicial process and a political scenario that is also calmer and in which he has less power than four years ago.