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Spain Tries to Foil Re-election of Catalonia’s Fugitive Separatist Leader

However, the separatist parties have since been unable to form a government, largely because some of their 70 elected lawmakers were either put in jail in Madrid or fled with Mr. Puigdemont to Belgium in late October, to avoid prosecution in Spain on charges that they led Catalonia toward an unconstitutional secession.

In March, Mr. Puigdemont was detained by the German police while he was traveling by car from Finland back to Belgium. The following month, a German regional judge rejected extraditing Mr. Puigdemont for the crime of rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of as many as 30 years in Spain. However, the judge has not yet decided whether to extradite Mr. Puigdemont for the lesser crime of misusing public money.

Pablo Llarena, the judge from the Spanish Supreme Court who is presiding over the trial against Mr. Puigdemont and other Catalan politicians, has also warned that Spain’s judiciary could take the case before the European Court of Justice if Germany blocks Mr. Puigdemont’s extradition on the charges sought by Madrid. Judge Llarena is also seeking the extradition of Catalan politicians who fled to Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland.

Spain Tries to Foil Re-election of Catalonia’s Fugitive Separatist Leader
Spain Tries to Foil Re-election of Catalonia’s Fugitive Separatist Leader

Despite his legal travails, Mr. Puigdemont has maintained his claim to be Catalonia’s rightful leader and has resisted calls by some other separatist politicians to elect a lawmaker who is not among the 25 Catalans who face prosecution on charges of rebellion, sedition or the misuse of public funds.

Mr. Puigdemont has built his case for re-election largely on the outcome of the December vote: His own party won the most seats among the main separatist parties.

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