A court in Neumünster in Schleswig-Holstein extended on Monday the pre-trial detention of Carles Puigdemont. The Catalan leader was arrested the day before by the police in the North German state. It is the first legal step in a possible extradition to Spain. On Friday, Madrid re-activated a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont for the crime of rebellion which means rebellion against the state. The former regional president of Catalonia is being subjected to up to 25 years in prison for sedition in Spain in connection with Catalonia's independence movement.
If the court decides that the German authorities can keep Puigdemont, his case will be transferred to a higher regional court in the city of Schleswig, where he could face a formal extradition procedure. Germany then has to decide whether to hand over the Catalan leader within 60 days – or 10 days – if he himself agrees to his extradition. A court spokeswoman said it was unlikely that a decision on extradition proceedings could be made before Easter.
On Monday, Puigdemont's lawyer Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas told the Catalan radio that he had no plans to seek political asylum in Germany. At the German government's press conference in Berlin, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said it was "very unusual" for a Spanish citizen to apply for political asylum in Germany.
Means Rebellion High treason?
Legal experts agree that Puigdemont's fate is probably determined by the degree of convergence between German and Spanish law.
Under EU law, Member States must comply with European arrest warrants issued on behalf of the Member States. But states have the option of not extraditing a suspect if the act accused of that person is not a crime in the delivering state.
The German Criminal Code contains the crime of high treason. Thus, Germany has little other option than to surrender Puigdemont, if this offense is equated with Rebellion . It has been speculated that the Spanish authorities' belief in the similarities between the legal systems of both countries is probably one reason why the Catalan leader was detained in Germany.
"What counts is the content of a crime, not the specific name", said a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Justice at the government's press conference.
But she warned that it was up to the regional courts in Schleswig-Holstein to judge whether rebellion and betrayal were comparable offenses. Should a extradition proceeding take place? A possible sticking point in comparison could be the fact that betrayal in Germany sometimes requires the threat of physical violence against the state.
Did Spain wait to uncover Puigdemont's whereabouts?
Puigdemont was arrested after his passage from Denmark to Germany when he was traveling by car from Finland, where he had given a lecture, to Brussels in Belgium, where he has been living in exile since last October. Puigdemont had received signals that the Belgian authorities would not extradite him to Spain.
Some have asked why the Catalan leader was first arrested in Germany when he also traveled through other EU Member States, including Denmark, which could have executed the arrest warrant.
Spanish media, including the newspaper El Pais reported that the Spanish intelligence services had kept Puigdemont under surveillance and, in particular because of the good cooperation between the German authorities, had given information about his whereabouts to the German authorities Spanish and German Prosecution. El Pais quoted unnamed sources in the Spanish intelligence services as saying that they had "excellent" relations with their German counterparts.
At the Federal Government's press conference, spokespersons of the Ministries of the Interior and Justice confirmed this contact with Spanish colleagues, but did not describe in detail what had caused the Schleswig-Holstein police to stop Puigdemont's vehicle
A German police spokesman said Monday that involved officers had no choice but to arrest the Catalan leader.
"We are responsible for doing what sets the justice system in motion," said Federal Police Commissioner Ernst Walter of AFP.
Let the courts decide
The 2002 European Council Framework Decision, which regulates European arrest warrants, states that they should be judged by the legal systems and not by the political leaderships of the countries involved.
In other words, it goes up o the courts – a position on which the German government detained the day after Puigdemont. Federal Minister of Justice Katarina Barley said on Monday before German television that Berlin would not intervene in the case.
On Sunday, vice-president of the Catalan Parliament, Josep Costa, told DW that the arrest warrant was "without merit" and "politically motivated." He added that he hoped that every court would decide that the fate of Puigdemont would not grant his extradition.
Andrej Hunko, of the opposition Left Party in Germany, called Puigdemont's arrest a "disgrace". But Robert Habeck of the opposition Greens said his party supports the government's position.
"There is an international arrest warrant, and it is valid for us," said Habeck DW. "Whether it was properly issued and whether the German judiciary will agree to extradition is up to the German judicial authorities."
This article originally appeared on DW.com. Its content was created separately for USA TODAY.
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