Separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has urged the Spanish leadership to end efforts to put him before a court over Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid after an Italian judge cleared him to travel following Spain's latest extradition bid.
Mr Puigdemont has successfully fought off efforts to extradite him from Belgium and Germany to stand trial for sedition over the attempt to break away from Spain. He remained in Italy only to fight the new attempt where he was joined by other independence leaders wanted by Madrid in a symbolic show of strength.
“It's time to say to Spain: 'Enough!',” Mr Puigdemont tweeted after he appeared in a court in Sardinia. “It is enough to follow a path that does not give any positive results and that hinders a political resolution of a political conflict.”
Mr Puigdemont headed Catalonia's regional government at the time of a vote on independence from Spain in 2017.
The Spanish courts said the vote was illegal and a heavy-handed police response to try to halt the vote sparked a political and constitutional crisis in Spain. The Catalan administration issued a short-lived declaration of independence before Mr Puigdemont, 58, fled to Brussels to avoid arrest.
He was elected to the European parliament in 2019. As a lawmaker, he had immunity from prosecution but was stripped of that right in March, setting up new clashes with Spain.
The latest hearing in Italy on Monday was to decide whether to extradite him to Spain to face sedition charges but no immediate decision was made and the separatist leader was cleared to travel. He said he plans to attend a European parliament session.
His lawyers say he should be free until European courts rule on their appeal against the European parliament’s decision to remove his immunity.
He was held on September 23 under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain after he flew into Sardinia for a Catalan folklore festival. He travelled at the invitation of the Italian island’s own independence movement.
The arrest came days after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez started new talks with the Catalan authorities to try and resolve the continuing crisis.
Mr Puigdemont was detained for less than 24 hours with Monday’s court hearing the latest attempt to decide on the legality of the arrest warrant.
Nine other Catalan separatist leaders were jailed in 2019 but were pardoned in June.
Madrid still wants Mr Puigdemont and others, including former Scotland-based academic Clara Ponsati, to be returned to face justice. Ms Ponsati travelled to Sardinia in a show of support for Mr Puigdemont.