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Charge against ex-Catalan president dropped

No longer accused of sedition, Carles Puigdemont remains on the hook for embezzlement and disobedience

A Spanish Supreme Court judge has dropped sedition charges against former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four other separatists involved in the region’s 2017 independence effort. Judge Pablo Llarena explained in a statement on Thursday that changes to the country’s sedition law meant it no longer applied to their actions.

Charges of embezzlement and disobedience against Puigdemont remain, carrying a jail sentence of up to eight years. Llarena pledged to submit a new extradition request to Belgium regarding the lesser charges, so long as the European courts do not decide Puigdemont has immunity and permit another extradition request. 

Puigdemont fled to Belgium in 2017 after Catalonia’s failed secession bid and has served as a member of European Parliament since 2019, fending off repeated efforts by Madrid to extradite him on the sedition charges. He was granted political asylum in Morocco in 2021. 

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Spain canceled its sedition law last year in what media have described as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attempting to shore up support for his minority government by ingratiating himself to Catalan political parties. The PM also pardoned several separatist politicians who had been imprisoned over the events of 2017. However, his desire for rapprochement with the wealthy northern region has apparently stopped short of willingness to greenlight an authorized independence referendum.

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Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders were accused of fomenting ‘rebellion’ by promoting and holding the 2017 independence vote in spite of a Spanish court ruling it illegal. Puigdemont countered that Madrid used “high-level political espionage” and other “very sophisticated” tactics against the Catalan independence movement.

He claimed in 2021 to have evidence of a coordinated “repression strategy” against himself and other regional leaders that included tracking devices planted on their vehicles and “fake news” spread about alleged Russian connections. 

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January 12, 2023 at 10:52PM
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