Spain’s top court summons Catalan separatist leader to testify remotely in terrorism case

By Thomson Reuters Apr 8, 2024 | 8:19 AM

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Supreme Court has summoned Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont to testify remotely in June over his links to a group accused of breaching terrorism law over protests following the region’s failed 2017 bid for independence.

The investigating magistrate set tentative dates for the remote hearing between June 17 and 21 and issued a European Investigation Order to ascertain Puigdemont’s whereabouts and legal address, the court said in a statement on Monday. Puigdemont lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

The case concerns protests by a secretive Catalan group, Democratic Tsunami, which organised mass demonstrations including sit-ins in 2019 that caused cancellations of flights at Barcelona’s airport and blocked a highway to France.

The group, which does not identify its leaders, says its actions were peaceful and the use of terrorism legislation is inappropriate. Puigdemont denies having any links to the group, and calls the case an example of political persecution.

The court issued the same summons for Ruben Wagensberg, a member of Catalonia’s regional parliament for separatist party ERC who moved to Switzerland in January.

Last November, the Supreme Court said it was investigating the group for suspicion of committing terrorism offences, and Puigdemont and 10 others for allegedly holding leadership roles in it.

Puigdemont has been facing prosecution in a separate case over the 2017 referendum to break away from Madrid at a time when he held the post of regional leader, and a subsequent declaration of independence that courts declared illegal.

The 61-year-old former journalist fled Spain at the time to avoid charges of disobedience and embezzlement. In Belgium, he serves as a member of the European Parliament.

In March, Puigdemont announced he would seek to again lead the region in elections in May and would return to Spain should he win – even if the arrest warrant for him remains in force.

However, the charges against him could be dropped under an amnesty announced by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party in return for the votes of separatists to prop up the minority national government.

(Reporting by David Latona; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Peter Graff)