EDITORIAL

Spain’s justice system exposed for all the world to see

In Germany, accusing someone of a crime requires evidence rather than bending the Criminal Code

The Territorial Court of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein has rejected "rebellion" as grounds to extradite Carles Puigdemont as there is no evidence of the violence that is required to sustain the accusation. Moreover, the court has released Puigdemont on bail while it considers whether to grant Spain’s extradition request for other crimes, such as misappropriation of public funds.

The German court’s decision undermines the foundation of the case which Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has been building against the leaders of the Catalan independence process. This is based on the claim that violence occurred both during the demonstration outside Catalonia’s Ministry of Economy on 20 September and in the passive resistance by members of the public outside polling stations on the 1 October. The German judges did not need to deliberate for very long to conclude that no violence took place in either instance. It remains to be seen how Llarena and the prosecutor's office will react, but Spain’s loss of face on the international stage is, at any rate, undeniable.

It is still possible that Germany will end up extraditing Puigdemont for the crime of misappropriation of public funds, an outcome which the Spanish government would attempt to depict as a victory. Either way, they’ve lost. Those who accuse the Catalan leaders of staging a "coup", those who claim that what the Spanish justice system did would have happened in any country have been overruled and their arguments defeated. Is it simply that the German judges have also fallen victim to pro-independence propaganda? Where are those who said, just the other day when Puigdemont was arrested, that Germany was a reliable country? Now we can see they were right: Germany truly is a reliable country where accusing someone of a crime requires evidence rather than bending the Criminal Code.

Puigdemont may have to spend some time in a Spanish prison, but such precedents, and perhaps also those of the Belgian and British courts, are bound to make it hard for the Spanish Supreme Court to find the other defendants guilty of rebellion. It may well happen, but in the eyes of the world it would be interpreted more as an act of revenge than of justice. The Catalan pro-independence process has brought Spain to a historical crossroads: it must now decide if it wishes, once again, to isolate itself and to turn its back on the world.

Yesterday it chose to do just that. While the German and Belgian courts allowed the accused to walk free, National Court judge Carmen Lamela filed charges of sedition against the former head of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, who —wait for it— also stands accused of belonging to a "criminal organisation", in an indictment that includes Superintendent Teresa Laplana as well as former Ministry of Interior officials Cèsar Puig and Pere Soler. And what crime did Trapero allegedly commit? He failed to use force against the members of the public who were protecting the ballot boxes on the 1 October.

The situation remains complicated, but we must be grateful to the European judges, who have seriously upset the Spanish State’s plans. Thank goodness.

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