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German lawyers say Berlin cannot extradite Puigdemont

March 29, 2018

A former German Supreme Court justice has been representing the ex-Catalan leader since his arrest. He says deporting Puigdemont would allow Spanish conflicts over Catalan independence to play out on German soil.

Carles Puigdemont
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/O. Matthys

A lawyer for the embattled ex-president of Catalonia called on German officials on Wednesday to publicly confirm that they will not extradite Carles Puigdemont to Spain. Attorney Wolfgang Schomburg told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily that Germany must act "without delay."

Otherwise, Schomburg said, Berlin risks "letting Spanish conflicts of interest be carried out on German soil."

Read more: Catalan independence - What you need to know

The lawyer also pointed out that, in order to participate in Spain's "request for judicial assistance," it would have to be specifically approved by Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

And Schomburg isn't just any defense lawyer. He is a one-time German Supreme Court justice, and the first German elected by the UN as a judge for the International Criminal Court, serving on tribunals of cases involving the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Schomburg has been representing Puigdemont since he was arrested in northern Germany on Sunday as he was returning to Belgium from Finland. On Monday, German officials announced they won't make a decision about releasing the former president before the weekend. His supporters have blocked roads in Barcelona and called for mass demonstrations in protest of his detention.

Companions arrested

Puigdemont had been living in exile in Belgium since last October. He fled Catalonia after being charged with rebellion for declaring the region independent from Spain following a controversial independence referendum.

Earlier on Wednesday, three of the men who were accompanying Puigdemont from Finland were arrested in Spain for "sheltering a criminal." Two of three are Catalan regional policemen.

A number of Puigdemont's former ministers have also been jailed for inciting rebellion.

In a symbolic show of defiance to Madrid, Catalonia's parliament voted on Wednesday to keep Puigdemont on as president, despite the fact that he cannot serve as he sits behind bars in Germany.

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Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.