Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont detained in Germany

Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan president, was on Sunday detained by police at the German border after Spain reactivated an international warrant for his arrest on charges of rebellion over October’s referendum and declaration of independence.

Mr Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, said he was detained while crossing the border from Denmark by car on his way back to Belgium from Finland, where he had travelled to speak at an event. 

"By now he is in a police station and his legal defence has already been activated," Mr Alonso-Cuevillas said.

The Spanish Supreme Court reissued European Arrest Warrants for Mr Puigdemont and four members of his former cabinet on Friday after charging 13 Catalan independence leaders with rebellion and misappropriation of funds.

The charges could see them jailed for up to 30 years. International arrest warrants were issued for two other separatist politicians, Ana Gabriel and Marta Rovira, who are currently in self-imposed exile in Switzerland.

If Mr Puigdemont does not consent to his extradition to Spain, the request will go before the German courts, a process for which he could be remanded in custody.

Protesters scuffle with riot police blocking the road leading to the central government offices at a demonstration in Barcelona Credit:
LUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images

German media reported that Mr Puigdemont had been transferred to Neumuenster prison following his arrest, which took place at a service station just inside the border in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein shortly before midday. 

The state’s deputy attorney, Ralph Doepper, said that a judge would decide on Monday whether he would remain in custody while the extradition case was heard, according to the German news agency DPA.

Mr Puigdemont will appear before a judge on Monday, but only to confirm his identity. 

Elsa Artadi, the spokesperson for Mr Puigdemont’s Junts Per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), said that the independence leader was being treated well by German authorities. “Spain does not guarantee a fair trial” for Mr Puigdemont, she added, but “only vengeance and repression”.

Quim Torra, a Junts Per Catalunya parliamentarian, called for international help over the Spanish crackdown. “This is not a German issue, it is the entire European Union that has the responsibility now,” he said on Twitter. 

A pro independence demonstrator holds up a Carles Puigdemont mask during a protest Credit:
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

Independence supporters have taken to the streets across Catalonia over the prosecutions, and the jailing on Friday of five of the charged separatists including Jordi Turull, who was due to be inaugurated as president on Saturday morning. 

On Sunday, pro-independence organisations called further demonstrations in front of Spanish government delegations. Protests also broke out in the Basque Country, where nationalist groups decried a “state of exception” in Catalonia. 

Local reports said 55,000 protesters were at the main march on the German consulate and a further 1,000 outside the Spanish government delegation, where the clashes took place. 

Arnaldo Otegi, general coordinator of EH Bildu, the Basque pro-independence party, called for a united front against “the escalation of repression” by the Spanish state.

Protesters shout slogans opposite riot police blocking the road leading to the central government offices during a demonstration in BarcelonaCredit:

“Today it is Catalonia and tomorrow it will be the Basque Country,” he warned.  But Mr Puigdemont’s arrest was celebrated by unionist politicians, including Albert Rivera, the leader of the conservative Ciudadanos.

“The flight of the coup-leader Puigdemont is over. He tried to destroy a European democracy, violate democratic laws, destroy coexistence and misappropriate public money but he could not enjoy impunity, justice has done its job,” Mr Rivera said.

Mr Alonso-Cuevillas insisted that Mr Puigdemont had intended to deliver himself to authorities in Belgium, where he fled after Madrid dissolved his government and imposed direct rule in late October. 

A previous attempt to extradite him fell apart when the Spanish Supreme Court cancelled the request just as a Belgian judge was about to rule on it, apparently due to fears the most serious crime of rebellion would be struck out. 

On Saturday, Mr Puigdemont’s lawyers had said he would present himself to authorities in Finland, where the Spanish court made the latest extradition request.

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But on Saturday night, they said he had already left Finland, and on Sunday morning, that his whereabouts were unknown.

The German magazine Focus reported that Spanish intelligence had been monitoring Puigdemont’s location and that when he began travelling from Finland towards Germany they alerted the country’s police. 

Scottish authorities said they have received a European Arrest Warrant for Clara Ponsati, the former education minister who recently left Belgium after four months of exile to return to her post at St Andrews University.

Amid an outcry from SNP MPs, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, stressed her government’s opposition to the Spanish crackdown but said the extradition request was a matter for the judiciary.

She said in a statement: "It is well established that the Scottish Government supports the right of the people of Catalonia to determine their own future and that we strongly oppose the Spanish Government’s decision to seek the arrest and imprisonment of independence supporting politicians."

However, Scottish ministers had "no powers to intervene" in the processing of a European Arrest Warrant, which was the responsibility of independent police, prosecutors and courts, Ms Sturgeon explained.

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