MADRID/ROME, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, who was detained by Italian police in Sardinia, must face justice in Spain, the Spanish government said on Friday ahead of an extradition hearing.
“Mr. Puigdemont must submit to the action of the courts, exactly like any other citizen,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office said in a statement.
Spain has accused Puigdemont, the former Catalan regional head, with sedition, claiming he helped organise a 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by Spanish courts.
The Catalan leader was detained by Italian border police at Alghero airport as he arrived on the island of Sardinia on Thursday evening.
He is due to attend an Italian court on Friday morning, though it is unclear whether the judge will decide whether he should be extradited, Italian news wire ANSA reported.
“We believe that the judicial authorities will release Puigdemont. This is the fourth time this has happened,” his lawyer Gonzalo Boyer told on Friday Cadena Ser radio.
In March, the European Parliament stripped Puigdemont of the immunity he enjoyed as a member since 2019. Puigdemont was living in self-imposed exile in Belgium.
Puigdemont had travelled to Alghero from Brussels to attend the Adifolk International Exhibition and to meet with the regional head of Sardinia and its ombudsman, according to his office.
Puigdemont was subject to a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, which is seeking his extradition over his role in the independence bid.
The referendum brought on Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades and was followed by a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament in October 2017, which prompted the central government to impose direct rule from Madrid and authorities to arrest separatist leaders.
Separatists groups in Barcelona said they would demonstrate on Friday morning to protest against Puigdemont’s arrest.Reporting by Inti Landauro, Giselda Vagnoni and Jesus Aguado; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore