Italian judge delays ruling on Puigdemont extradition case

Spain has issued an extradition warrant for exiled ex-Catalan leader, who was arrested in Sardinia last month.

Puigdemont, 58, has successfully avoided extradition since taking up residence Belgium after calling a vote on Catalan independence from Spain in 2017 - a plebiscite Spanish courts say was illegal [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

An Italian court has suspended a case regarding the extradition of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, pending a decision by the European Court of Justice, according to his lawyer.

Monday’s ruling came after Puigdemont was arrested on September 23 in Sardinia by officers acting under a European arrest warrant issued by Spain.

Puigdemont, 58, had arrived on the Mediterranean island from his home in Belgium to attend a Catalan cultural festival at the invitation of a Sardinian separatist movement.

He was freed by a judge a day later pending Monday’s extradition hearing.

Puigdemont’s Italian lawyer, Agostinangelo Marras, told reporters that a decision on extradition to Spain, where he is accused of sedition, is pending over two questions already being considered by European courts. But he said his client will be able to travel as he pleases in the meantime.

“He is absolutely free,″ Piugdemont’s Italian lawyer, Agostinoangelo Marras, told The Associated Press.

The Italian court first wants to see how the European Union’s general court will rule on Puigdemont’s appeal to the lifting of his immunity as a European Parliament member earlier this year.

Secondly, the Italian court will wait to see if the European Union Court of Justice rules that the Spanish Supreme Court has the authority to request his extradition, after a Belgian court said in January that it did not.

Puigdemont headed Catalonia’s regional government at the time of a vote on independence from Spain in 2017 – a plebiscite that Spanish courts said was illegal.

He has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since shortly after the referendum.

Several of his cohorts who stayed in Barcelona were arrested and found guilty of sedition and misusing public funds.

In an attempt to defuse the political crisis he inherited from his conservative predecessor, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pardoned nine imprisoned separatist leaders in June.

Puigdemont, and others like him who fled, could not benefit from the act of grace since they have yet to face justice.

Source: News Agencies