Puigdemont returns to Brussels, but goes to Sardinia to testify

by Lorraine Williamson
former Catalan president arrested in Sardinia

After spending 24 hours in a maximum-security prison in Sardinia and awaiting his appearance before a judge in Sassari on 4 October, Puigdemont spent Saturday in the Sardinian town of Alghero. 

The independence movement considers Alghero one of the last cultural borders of Catalonia, the Catalan enclave, where former president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, could land since fleeing Spain in 2017.  The leader of the independence movement was greeted with a standing ovation in the centre of the town of Alghero (Alguer in Catalan). 

The independence movement considers Alghero one of the last cultural borders of Catalonia, a Catalan enclave, where the former president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, could land since fleeing Spain in 2017.   

Still like a magnet 

Puigdemont managed to draw attention to himself again, trying to show that he still has a magnetising appeal for a part of the independence movement. The current president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, who arrived in Sardinia in the afternoon after a long boat trip, had a brief meeting with Puigdemont.  According to the Catalan ex-president, it was a ‘warm, empathetic and emotional’ meeting. And they did not discuss any current political issues.  

City tour 

Puigdemont had the whole day to walk around the city and meet the Sardinian authorities (the region’s president, Christian Solinas, and the mayor, Mario Conoci). He was welcomed by a group of some 800 Catalan supporters who had travelled to Alghero. Puigdemont accused the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez of being behind his arrest. It was not our fault. We have had a lot of help from the Spanish state and we encourage them to continue to do so,’ he said ironically. Puigdemont appeared in the company of his lawyer Gonzalo Boye, the director of his office, Josep Lluís Alay, and some representatives of Junts per Catalunya, including the secretary general, Jordi Sànchez. 

Role in referendum 

The former president of the Generalitat, who lost his immunity as an MEP in July and was arrested in Sardinia on Thursday, is awaiting a ruling from the Italian judiciary on the validity of the European arrest warrant issued against him for his involvement in the banned referendum on independence in 2017.  As of 2019, Puigdemont enjoyed parliamentary immunity; that status was stripped from him earlier this year. 

Back to Belgium 

On Monday, Puigdemont returned to Belgium, where he awaits the outcome of Italian justice regarding his possible extradition to Spain. He assures that he will return to Sardinia on 4 October to appear before the court in Sassari. On that day, the hearing will be held to analyse the demand for his extradition to Spain. 

‘The judicial strategy is the same as always,’ said Gonzalo Boye, Puigdemont’s lawyer. ‘We have always appeared, and before the courts of all democratic states, when we have been summoned. And we will continue to do so. Nevertheless, Italian legal sources believe that if he does not appear, the judge could dismiss the case.’  

Link with ERC 

The arrest has also highlighted the rift with government partner ERC over dialogue with the Spanish government. A process that the former Catalan president tried to defuse yesterday.

‘Today the world has seen there is a part of the movement for independence that is not at the table. Because it is not accepted! It seems that the Spanish government only wants to talk to those who give it parliamentary support. That is why the Government was so keen for me to be arrested. ‘We don’t sit at that table. That is because they don’t want us to,’ Puigdemont said, concealing the fact that his party did not participate in the first meeting of the table because it refused to designate councillors as its representatives. Nor did he explain how he believed Spain’s intervention came about. The only thing he referred to was that ‘Sánchez promised that he would hand me over to justice’. 

Relations between ERC and Junts are at their worst. But Pere Aragonès decided to travel to Sardinia on Friday anyway to support Puigdemont. He only arrived in Alghero on Saturday at 16.00 by boat. So, until his arrival, the spotlight remained on Puigdemont, who had already had a meeting with the Sardinian authorities. Both leaders spoke to each other for a few minutes and appeared separately to the press. 

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