Carles Puigdemont, who as regional president organized a referendum on Catalonia’s independence in 2017, was arrested on the Italian island of Sardinia on Thursday night. This was reported by the international media. The Spanish judiciary had issued an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont. He’s wanted there for “rebellion,” a crime that could carry a 25-year prison sentence if convicted.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office issued a statement on Friday morning calling for Puigdemont to be extradited to Spain as soon as possible so he could face trial. It remains unclear whether Italy will do so. Puigdemont has to respond in an Italian court on Friday. The politician’s supporters announced that they would demonstrate in Barcelona on Friday against his arrest.
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Puigdemont lived in Belgium in recent years, which had previously refused to extradite him to Spain. His diplomatic immunity, which he obtained when elected to the European Parliament in 2019, was withdrawn earlier this year after a vote in that parliament. Even after that, Belgium did not extradite Puigdemont to Spain. The politician visited several European countries in recent years. Sometimes he was held for a short time, but always released.
Puigdemont traveled to the Italian island of Sardinia to visit the small Catalan separatist movement active there. Immediately upon his arrival, the former regional president was arrested by the Italian authorities.
In 2017, Puigdemont, along with some other Catalan regional officials, organized an independence referendum. After this referendum, the Catalan government decided to declare the Republic of Catalonia, while the national government in Madrid declared the vote illegal. All politicians participating in the referendum were tried, after which Puigdemont and four separatists fled the country. Nine others were arrested, and sentenced to prison terms of up to thirteen years. In June of this year they got it Pardon Prime Minister Pedro Sanchezwhich was seeking political support from the Catalan parties.
Correction (September 24, 2021): An earlier version of this article stated that Carles Puigdemont is a former Prime Minister of Catalonia. That’s not true, he was a regional chief. This has been corrected above.
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