Former Catalan President Carles Puccimon, who was exiled, was arrested in Italy at the request of Spain over an independence referendum that Madrid found illegal and was released from prison on Friday without any apparent restrictions.
European Parliamentarian Puccimon, who fled Spain after the 2017 vote, left the prison in the town of Sassari, Sardinia, and cheered from outside supporters.
“We always thought this could happen, but we also knew how it would end,” the newly released Puccimon told the crowd.
The court in Sassari will consider Puccimon’s request for surrender on October 4, said his lawyer Agostinangelo Maras.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday that he would respect the Italian system, but added that “it is clear that Carles Puccimon must be tried and tried.”
The arrest caused sharp accusations from the Catalan government, and regional leader Pere Aragonès demanded Puccimon’s “immediate release” and said he would travel to Sardinia to “wait” for him.
It also comes at a sensitive time nine days after the left-wing Spanish government and local Catalan authorities resumed negotiations to find a solution to Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
And in Barcelona, the provincial capital of Catalonia, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Italian Consulate, with some holding a temporary sign with the word “freedom” in Catalan on top of a photo of Puccimon. ..
The October 2017 referendum was staged by the separatist local government of Catalunya, despite a ban by Madrid, and the process was undermined by police violence.
Madrid swiftly moved to prosecute the late Catalan separatist leader, sentenced nine of them to long-term imprisonment.
In March, the European Parliament withdrew the immunity of Puccimon and two other independent MEPs. This decision was upheld by the EU General Court in July.
“Someone misunderstood the (EU) Court of First Instance and lifted the precautions,” Brussels-based lawyer Gonzaloboe of Puccimon told AFP.
Aragon, a more moderate separatist who took over Catalan leaders earlier this year, said the only solution to the political crisis in the region was “self-determination.”
Quim Torra, who took over after Puccimon’s escape, said the delivery of his predecessor to Spain was “catastrophic” and urged independent activists to “be vigilant.”
In addition to Puccimon, former Catalan regional ministers Toni Komin and Clara Ponsati have also been sought in Spain on suspicion of incitement.
A statement from the Ministry of Justice said, “The procedure is entirely up to the judiciary.”
Place of originCatalan ex-leader released from jail, free to leave Italy