Spain’s Supreme Court could reduce the charges against pro-independence leaders from rebellion to sedition in order to facilitate the extradition of Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan president who was detained on a European Arrest Warrant in Germany.

The Schleswig-Holstein court rejected extraditing Puigdemont for the charges of rebellion, pointing to the absence of violent acts in Catalonia’s bid for independence. The Spanish and German criminal codes both envision violence as a condition for charging someone with the crime of rebellion, and its German equivalent of high treason.

In a response to Jordi Sànchez, a jailed activist who appealed the blocking of his appointment as president, the Supreme Court referred to the Schleswig-Holstein court’s decision (text in Spanish). The Spanish tribunal said that should Germany face a secessionist bid by one of its länder, it would surely prosecute leaders for high treason.

Juridical rebellion

The Supreme court stressed that “physical violence was less important” in Catalan leaders rising up against Spain, because theirs was not a “rebellion encompassing a mass of people organized against the state and attempting to take positions of power” but one in which politicians were already in control of a regional government. Judges refer to their actions as a “juridical rebellion”

“If my capacity for surprise had not already been exceeded for many months, I’d say that the today’s Supreme Court resolution is absolutely unbeatable” said Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, Puigdemont’s lawyer.

The crime of sedition was first brought up by Spain’s attorney general. Carrying prison sentences of up to 15 years, it is considered less severe than rebellion. Although judge Pablo Llarena decided to prosecute pro-independence leaders for rebellion, the Supreme Court could ultimately decide to reduce the charges to sedition.

According to the judges, there were more than a hundred violent encounters between police officers and voters on October 1, the day of the independence referendum deemed illegal by Spanish courts. Judges say that should more police officers have been deployed in Catalonia, it could well have led to a “massacre”.

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