Three weeks ago, a vote excised the crime of sedition from the Spanish penal code. As a result, separatist leader Carles Puigdemont will avoid punishment for his role in leading Catalonia’s failed attempt at secession in 2017.
On December 22nd, 2022, the new penal code met approval with both chambers of Parliament. The process leading up to the final vote in the Senate had been nothing if not controversial, as was patently obvious in the breakdown of votes. The bill garnered just 140 votes in favor, with 118 senators voting against it.
“The Spanish Parliament has definitively approved the bill for the adaptation of criminal legislation to EU regulations and the reform of crimes against moral integrity, public disorder and smuggling of dual-use weapons,” the Spanish Senate then tweeted.
Since the reform would be a boon to Catalan independence advocates, a minor crisis erupted within Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s socialist government, which faced criticism from both allies and opposition.
Compelled by the change to the nation’s penal code, which went into effect on Thursday, January 12th, a Spanish Supreme Court judge has dropped sedition charges against Carles Puigdemont, according to a statement issued by the magistrate.
Under the new law, “the facts of the case related to [sedition] are now subsumable in a crime of disobedience,” Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena wrote in the statement.
As a result, the former president of Catalonia, together with four other Catalan independence leaders, will avoid facing prosecution for sedition. Originally, Puigdemont was facing a maximum of 15 years in prison for the crime. The judge however upheld charges of embezzlement and disobedience, which could result in a sentence of eight years behind bars.
An actual conviction and carrying out of the sentence could prove difficult, however. In the hope of eluding Spanish justice, Puigdemont has relocated to Belgium.
In his statement, Llarena said that the milder sentence “will be communicate[d] to the executing courts of Belgium and Italy.” Both countries are known to host Catalan nationalists fleeing prosecution.
The Spanish judge added that he would submit a new extradition request to Belgian authorities so Puigdemont can stand trial for the remaining charges.
In a Facebook video message released on the same day, Puigdemont responded that he would not surrender to a Spanish judge, even given the now more lenient sentences.
“I will not support, for my personal benefit, a policy that aims to criminalize the desire of Catalans to live in a free country. I take the risk of fighting to the end to become free,” he concluded.