The true reason why Spain dropped the European arrest warrant

The true reason why the Spanish authorities withdrew the European arrest warrant issued for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and the members of his government who are in Brussels is simply the fact that any country that wishes to call itself a democracy cannot argue before any judge, reasonably and objectively, that the Catalan leaders have committed a crime of rebellion. This and only this can explain the decision by judge Pablo Llarena to drop the warrant issued by Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional judge Carmen Lamela so that Belgium’s justice would hand over the Catalan president and the four ministers who had moved to Brussels.

Judge Llarena understood that he and his colleague Carmen Lamena were about to get slapped in the face and, therefore, he opted to make a U-turn. With his decision, Pablo Llarena has acknowledged his inability to persuade an independent judge that there are legal grounds to prosecute Puigdemont and his ministers for rebellion. I would like to emphasise that in no civilised country could the actions of the Catalan government have possibly led to a prosecution for rebellion. In none whatsoever.

Neither in Spain. In a joint statement a few days ago, one hundred criminal law professors from law schools across Spain wrote that the actions of the Catalan authorities could, under no circumstances, be construed as a crime of sedition, let alone rebellion. This opinion is practically unanimous in Spain’s criminal, constitutional and procedural doctrine.

I find it hard to believe that this view isn’t widely shared by most judges and magistrates working in Spain’s judicial system. It is not possible for Spanish judges to regard as a crime of rebellion something which would not stand as such before their colleagues in other European countries.

Spain is a democratic country where the rule of law prevails, but the way in which the Attorney General and Spain’s top two judicial organs —the Audiencia Nacional and the Supreme Court— are tackling Catalan nationalism is unbecoming of any democratic country.

This is not merely about bending the law, but about ignoring it altogether. I would like to highlight this point because, in a true democracy, the law that defines the crime of rebellion could never be the law that the Supreme Court and the Audiencia Nacional have invoked. If Spain is a democracy, then the law that regulates the crime of rebellion cannot be, in any case, the same law that the Audiencia Nacional and the Supreme Court are invoking. That is why judge Pablo Llarena has had to drop the European arrest warrant. Otherwise, there was a risk that Belgium’s justice might have questioned the democratic nature of Spain, not in general, but in this particular case.

Now that the warrant has been withdrawn, the decision by judge Llarena two days ago to keep Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart in remand should be reconsidered without delay. If the judge cannot argue in front of a colleague of a democratic nation that the charges against the Catalan government are justified, how can he use the same charges to keep others in remand?

None of the members of the Catalan government, the Parliamentary Bureau and the leaders of the pro-independence grassroots groups (ANC and Òmnium) should have ever been kept in custody, pending trial without bail. The withdrawal of the European arrest warrant is definitive proof of this.

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