About the anticipatory obedience of the German authorities

After the arrest of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (Press Release)

If the German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) had actively cooperated with the Spanish secret service in the run-up to the arrest, this would have to be seen as a political scandal. Photo: pixabay

The Belgian and Swiss authorities have so far not gone after the Catalan independence advocates – and most probably won’t in the future. Obviously, the Belgian and Swiss judiciary do not share the allegations of the Spanish state that the Catalan separatists are criminals. For the German judiciary, however, they apparently are. If the German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) had actively cooperated with the Spanish secret service in the run-up to the arrest, this would have to be seen as a political scandal – and it would be a major disappointment if it turned out that the German authorities share the opinion of the Spanish state that the Catalan independence referendum of last autumn was an act of rebellion, a crime.

In Switzerland, where Anna Gabriel from the far-left separatist party CUP found protection, the situation is different. As Franco Galli, spokesman for the Federal Department of Justice in Bern, informed the French newspaper Le Temps, Spain would probably stand no chance with requests for extradition or legal assistance. As the issue was “in all probability” to be seen as a “political offense” in the sense of the Swiss Federal Penal Code and the European Convention on Human Rights, Switzerland would refuse to help the Spanish judiciary.

The actions of the Spanish judiciary – the criminal proceedings against Puigdemont and twelve other Catalan politicians, and the arrest warrants against seven politicians who fled abroad – are also met with criticism within Spain.

More than one hundred criminal law professors from Spanish universities published a manifesto criticizing the Prosecutor General’s Office and Judge Carmen Lamela of the National Court of Auditors (Audiencia Nacional). According to the law professors, the independence referendum initiated by the Catalan government and the members of the parliamentary presidency, as well as the declaration of independence associated with it, are not to be seen as an act of rebellion. They pointed out that an act of rebellion would have to involve violence as a “structural element” – but the referendum and the declaration of independence were non-violent (except for the scuffle on the day of the referendum, mainly caused by the Guardia Civil). Further, the events could not even be characterized as a less serious “turmoil”, because the defendants did not take part in or provoke riots.

Finally, the lawyers stated that – even if the defendants were to be seen as guilty of rebellion or of rioting, the matter would have to be taken care of by an ordinary court in Barcelona – not the National Court. In the past, the Audiencia Nacional had often pointed out that it is not responsible for such offenses. The manifesto also criticizes the “disproportionate” imposition of pre-trial detention.

Due to the fact that Puigdemont was arrested at the German-Danish border on the basis of a European arrest warrant, the issue is reminiscent of the imprisonment of the Cologne-based writer Dogan Akhanli, who had been wanted by Turkey, in Spain – and in July 2017, the Italian authorities had arrested German national Dolkun Isa, an Uyghur human rights defender and secretary-general of the World Uyghur Congress in Munich. China had issued an arrest warrant against the human rights activist for allegedly supporting terrorist.

The question is whether, by arresting Puigdemont, the German judiciary is serving as the henchman of a politicized Spanish judiciary!?