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Puigdemont rebellion charge was 'extremely risky' - German legal expert

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Puigdemont rebellion charge was 'extremely risky' - German legal expert

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Carles Puigdemont should not and will not be extradited to Spain, a leading German legal expert has told Euronews.

Point of view

Criminal law does not help you in conflicts like this

Heribert Prantl Editor-in-Chief, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich

Heribert Prantl, Editor in Chief of Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich has also worked as a judge and prosecutor, and says the conflict concerning Catalonia is not only a Spanish issue.

He believes European leaders should have stepped in to restrain the actions of the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.

“The accusation of ‘rebellion’ was extremely risky, and indeed the decision from the court in Schleswig contains the incredibly tough sentence that Puigdemont’s behaviour is not punishable under current German law. This is a strong sentence. It is not necessarily a fundamental criticism of the rule of law in Spain. But nevertheless it is a crystal clear statement. One can now expect that the arrest warrant will ultimately be lifted - and in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Rebellion is not punishable in Germany

Heribert Prantl: The charge of ‘high treason’ in Germany - that is the rule here – has certain conditions, in Spain it is different. ‘Rebellion’ there is a simpler concept. But this concept cannot be applied to German law. Under international rules on mutual assistance in law enforcement, it would be a political offence: in the case of such an offence deportation is not possible. There remains the charge of the misuse of funds. Puigdemont – this is what he is accused of – is said to have financed the referendum with state funds – one wonders; what other funds? But this allegation is so closely related to the thwarted charge of rebellion that I do not think the arrest warrant can be based on this allegation.

Rebellion as it is defined in Spain is not punishable in Germany, therefore the arrest warrant on this point is repealed.

German government 'hid behind judges'

Euronews: Should Angela Merkel have reacted earlier?

Heribert Prantl: The entire German government has hidden behind the judges. I think it's right that you don’t try to put a spoke in the wheel with the judges or dictate what they have to do. Here, the law should be carried out according to the rule of law, and politicians should do politics. I expect politicians to start negotiating and find a political solution.

REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
Ex-Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont is freed from prison in Neumuenster, Germany, April 6, 2018 REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

'Catalonia is not an internal Spanish affair'

Euronews: Would you have liked the EU to say something about Puigdemont and Catalonia?

Heribert Prantl: Of course they will have to say something about Puigdemont and Catalonia. You cannot pretend that the conflict is none of your business. There will be no political solution without the European Union and without the participation of the other European states. Of course, the leaders of the European Union must speak out, of course they cannot pretend that this is a purely domestic matter. The case of Puigdemont and the decision from Schleswig have shown that the effects of this great dispute go far beyond Spain and also burden the European Union.

Euronews: How would you have liked Brussels to react?

Heribert Prantl: Well, if Mr Rajoy fools around and the situation continues to escalate, then I would like Brussels and Berlin and Paris to have a moderating effect and say to him: "Dear colleague, criminal law does not help you in conflicts like this. We can offer you political support, we can offer you mediation, we can offer you help, we can offer you our experience."

The Italians can point to their experiences with South Tyrol, and for me the Germans can highlight their experiences with the Bavarians and the Saarland.

It comes down to this: how do I deal with secessionist movements? In Bavaria, this is just about folklore. And the fact that it is only folklore has to do with the fact that Germany has brought peace via federalism. Decades ago South Tyrol was bombed, and it has become a peaceful land.