Spain arrests Puigdemont's traveling companions
Historian Josep Lluís Alay and two Catalan police officers were detained for some hours as prosecutor gathers evidence to charge them with aiding and abetting
A Spanish prosecutor is looking into charging the four people who were with the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont when he was detained in Germany on Sunday with aiding and abetting the pro-independence leader.
Among Puigdemont’s traveling companions were two Catalan police officers and the historian Josep Lluís Alay, all of whom were arrested on Wednesday and released after being held in custody for some hours. The businessman Josep Maria Matamala is the only companion who remained free.
According to Jaume Alonso Cuevillas, Puigdemont's lawyer, Alay did not testify while he was arrested. Although the crimes for which they are being accused were not specified, he said it was possible that the traveling companions were being investigated for aiding and abetting.
Yet, Cuevillas stressed that none of the investigated have helped commit any crimes. According to the lawyer, when Puigdemont was arrested he was on his way to Belgium, where he planned to hand himself in to authorities there.
A number of media outlets have reported that one of the Catalan police officers had traveled to Finland with Puigdemont, along with Matamala. Another officer left Belgium for Sweden on Friday in the car that Puigdemont was using in Waterloo, where he lived, and was most likely accompanied by Alay. All five men met in Sweden and began the drive back to Belgium. However, German police intercepted the car on Sunday morning and Puigdemont was taken into custody.
Mossos under investigation
Spain’s interior ministry began an investigation in February to find out whether the police officers protecting Puigdemont in Belgium were members of the Mossos d’Esquadra police force. One man was found to be a Catalan police officer and disciplinary proceedings were brought against him. The officer is currently on sick leave. The authorities now want to know if the other dozen or more officers protecting the deposed president voluntarily went to Belgium to offer their services on their own time.
European Arrest Warrant
Puigdemont’s detention is following a European Arrest Warrant re-issued by the Spanish judiciary, against the aforementioned as well as other Catalan officials abroad. The warrant includes deposed Education minister Clara Ponsatí, who on Wednesday also turned herself into the authorities in Scotland, the country in which she is currently residing.
Puigdemont himself is still being held in custody in Germany, a situation not set to be re-evaluated until after Easter, with a decision on his extradition potentially taking up to three months.