While a German court recently ruled that the Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont cannot be extradited to Spain on a charge of “rebellion” and ordered him to be released on bail, perhaps what is most extraordinary about this case, is that Spain tried to use the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for a matter that is by definition highly politically motivated and charged.
Given EAW’s cannot be used for matters of ‘political motivation’, it is wholly understandable that the German court ruled against the Spanish request. The case highlights how open the EAW system is to abuse for political reasons and the lack of an effective safeguard against its calculated, strategic deployment.
Spanish intelligence services were found to be following Mr Puigdemont across Europe. Spain used their knowledge of his movements to withdraw the EAW once it appeared that Belgium, where he first sought refuge, was not willing to simply rubber-stamp his extradition.
After he travelled to Finland, the EAW was re-issued prompting Mr Puigdemont to flee back to the perceived safety of Belgium only to be apprehended in Germany as he made his way back. The decision to arrest him in Germany, rather than Finland or Denmark which was on his return route, suggests a strategic choice was made to apprehend him there on the basis that Germany was deemed more likely to rule in the Spanish government’s favour.
Now on bail, Mr Puigdemont faces a separate Spanish charge of ‘misappropriation of funds’ and awaits his fate at the hands of the German courts. Whatever the outcome, Due Process will continue to watch this case with interest.