The legal case against the procés has once again run aground abroad. The Italian judges of Sassari have decided this Monday that Carles Puigdemont be released, without precautionary measures and that his possible extradition must wait for the Court of Justice of the European Union to resolve a preliminary ruling. A new international stumble of the Supreme Court and of the magistrate Pablo Llarena after the failures of Germany and Belgium that also moves away the outcome: it would be strange if the judges of Luxembourg resolved these questions in less than a year.
Llarena asks Italy to also stop Comín and Ponsatí after accompanying Puigdemont to Sardinia
The order signed by the magistrate-president Salvatore Marinaro has just four pages and dedicates a few technical and direct paragraphs to saying what many suspected in Madrid. They leave the process on hold “considering that the guidance on the request for annulment of the revocation of immunity before the General Court of the Union and on the preliminary request presented to the Court of Justice” in reference to the preliminary ruling presented by Llarena is still pending. .
It is not a decision that has caught anyone by surprise in the Supreme Court or the State Attorney General’s Office. From the moment of Puigdemont’s arrest in Sardinia on the night of September 23, different sources in the case showed little hope that the handover process would succeed in the short term. The former identity traveled to a country where the European Detention Order (OED) had not been suspended and various sources related to the case understood that the normal thing would be this: that it be suspended until Llarena’s own prejudicial question about Belgium’s refusal to handing over Lluís Puig was resolved.
Yesterday’s order reveals that the Prosecutor’s Office believes that there is double criminality and that the crimes of sedition and embezzlement have their place in articles 241 and 314 of the Italian penal code. This setback does not imply, therefore, that Italy is not going to hand over Carles Puigdemont to be tried in our country, but it does greatly delay that possible moment.
The preliminary ruling was filed in March and the CJEU decided that it was not going to process it as an urgent matter, which closes the door to having an answer before the first quarter of 2022 based on how long it has taken to resolve other preliminary ruling questions. Many of these questions raised by Spain, for example, regarding abusive consumer products or banking products, have been resolved in a period of approximately two years.
The only antecedent of the case is not valid: the same court took just five months to resolve the preliminary ruling on the parliamentary immunity of Oriol Junqueras in 2019, but on that occasion the emergency route was resorted to. The Supreme Court raised the case before his European colleagues in July of that year and the sentence arrived in December, but on that occasion it was processed at full speed considering that Junqueras was in prison and that a decision could even affect his procedural situation. .
Another question that flies over this process has to do with Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí. A few hours before learning that the Italian court was suspending the delivery of Puigdemont, Judge Pablo Llarena addressed his Sardinian counterparts to remind them that they could also detain and hand over the two ex-councilors who had traveled with him there. It has done so following the argument that the Euroorders are also still active against them, although it remains to be seen whether it decides to back down from the foreseeable response of also suspending those processes until there is an answer to the preliminary question.
New failure in Europe
The matter is not completely closed but the decision of the Sardinian judges represents a new setback for the judicial case against the procés outside the Spanish borders after Puigdemont and several former members of his Government chose not to attend the Hearing National and, therefore, escape in the eyes of the Spanish Justice. A refusal that comes after the doors slammed by the German and Belgian courts that delay a possible trial of the former president in the Supreme Court.
The first setback came in July 2018 when the German court in Schleswig-Holstein announced that it would hand over Puigdemont but accused only of embezzlement of public funds. The Germanic judges came to the conclusion that the violence required to speak of a crime of rebellion did not exist in the case of the procés and they left a surrender for embezzlement that Llarena could not accept. The worst fears of the instructor materialized, evidenced when a few months earlier he had withdrawn the Euro-orders in Belgium: that the judges of other countries would condition his instruction by rebellion.
The earthquake with the most aftershocks took place last January, when the Belgian judges definitively closed the door to hand over former minister Lluís Puig. Judge Llarena decided that it was time to involve the Court of Justice of the European Union by raising a preliminary question about the ability of the Belgian authorities to refuse to hand over a fugitive like Puig. It is this preliminary ruling that now, with boomerang effect, delays the decision of the Italian courts on Puigdemont.
The mood has changed since then. Neither the Prosecutor’s Office nor the Supreme Court had doubts in 2018 that Puigdemont would be handed over by the German authorities and his arrest one weekend in March of that year was considered a true triumph. This second arrest in Sardinia, however, was received with extreme caution with various sources in the case acknowledging to elDiario.es that it was by no means the ideal scenario with the pending preliminary question.
Vox, at the door
The far-right party Vox, which relies on its judicial activity as part of its public projection before its electorate, starred in another of the great stumbles of the morning. After traveling to Sardinia with a delegation headed by Marta Castro, the party’s legal deputy secretary, they could not even be part of the hearing and are not considered part of the extradition process of the former Catalan identity. The president of the Sardinian court took just a couple of minutes to show them the door, according to sources present at the hearing.
The delegation was headed by Castro and made up of three more people according to the images sent by the political party itself. Vox communication services announced that they would go to the Sassari court of appeal “together with an Italian legal team (…) to intervene in the hearing that will decide on the extradition of Puigdemont” in which they have not finally been able to participate.
Their role as a popular accusation in the trial to the procés – highly questioned by the Supreme Court in its 2019 ruling – does not guarantee, therefore, to be part of the international search and capture, where the legal battle of the next few years will be played . The far-right party understands that the same law that allows them to be a popular prosecution in the Supreme Court also allows them to appear “in any procedure related to it.” There we are a popular accusation, why are we not going to be here “, asked Marta Castro.
It is not the first door slammed by Vox in a branch of the cause of the process. Already at the beginning of the year the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court rejected their allegations on the pardons to the nine convicted of sedition. The Law that regulates the pardon since 1870 It clearly states in Article 24 that the sentencing court will request reports “from the Prosecutor and the aggrieved party, if any,” not from the popular prosecution of the case.