A defeat for Spanish justice

Justice Llarena will not accept Puigdemont’s extradition only for the crime of misusing public funds

Following his decision to drop the extradition warrants against the Catalan leaders in exile, Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena —who was once the justice-seeking hero tasked with reigning in the nefarious Catalan separatist parties— is now the culprit of Spain’s humiliating, historical defeat before Europe’s justice. Justice Llarena, whose name had been tossed around as the future prime minister of Spain, is guilty of having sent his armada to fight the elements and returning a defeated man. He will go down in history as someone who threw Spain’s reputation in the gutter.

In a move unprecedented in Europe, yesterday Pablo Llarena announced that he would not accept Carles Puigdemont’s extradition only for the crime of misusing public funds, as the German court of Schleswig-Holstein had ruled. Furthermore, the Spanish judge decided to withdraw all the European arrest warrants he had issued, rather than be consistent and argue his case before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. Not only did he drop the warrant against Carles Puigdemont —the only one that a court of law had ruled on—, but also the warrants filed with a Belgian court against Antoni Comín, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig, against Clara Ponsatí (in Scotland), and in Switzerland against Marta Rovira.

Although Llarena’s decision was to be expected, the magnitude of yesterday’s blow has left Spain’s media and political circles in shock. Once he was prepared to concede his crushing defeat, Llarena chose to lay down the terms of his capitulation before Europe all on the same day and in a single statement. His writing is a combination of impotence, hurt pride and inconsistency. He accuses the German courts of “lacking commitment” and ignoring European jurisprudence, yet the Spanish judge relinquishes the opportunity to argue his case before a European court of law, which clearly indicates that he does not expect he would win and would rather spare himself the trouble. Not only in Luxembourg, but also in the other countries where Catalan leaders are exiled. In other words, Spain’s justice has openly admitted before Europe that it doesn’t feel it can present a solid case and win the legal battle. Do we need better evidence than that to conclude that the case being examined by Spain’s Supreme Court is of a political nature? Isn’t this embarrassing U-turn a de-facto admission that Junqueras, Turull, Romeva, Rull, Forcadell, Bassa, Sànchez and Cuixart are political prisoners?

Justice Llarena prefers to debase the reputation of the State he claims to serve rather than rectify his course and drop the charges of rebellion and sedition. His mulish blindness has driven Spain to the brink of judicial isolationism, a country where criminal law is not applied with the same guarantees as in the rest of the EU. The judges who will see the case in Spain will need to tread very carefully because their ruling will be extremely far-reaching: a guilty verdict for the crime of rebellion might quench a certain thirst for revenge at home, but would drive them outside the European justice space. Is that what they want?

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