Spain’s Supreme Court dropped a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday after Germany refused to extradite him to face a charge of rebellion for declaring Catalonia an independent state last year.
The Spanish court also dropped European arrest warrants for five other Catalan pro-independence leaders living abroad.
The move demonstrates the difficulty Spain has faced in trying to persuade its European Union partners to help it bring former members of Catalonia’s regional government to trial for holding a referendum on a split from Spain.
Puigdemont’s regional government held the vote last year in defiance of a Spanish court that had ruled it illegal. After the vote, the Catalan regional authorities declared independence, prompting Madrid to impose direct rule, fire the region’s government and hold new elections there.
Several members of Puigdemont’s former cabinet are now in jail in Madrid facing rebellion charges, while he and several others are scattered across Europe, where they so far have successfully avoided Spanish efforts to have them sent home.
A German court ruled a week ago that Puigdemont, 55, could be extradited to Spain to face a separate charge for misuse of public funds, but not for the rebellion charge. Under European law, that means Spain would have been barred from trying him on the more serious charge if the extradition were to proceed.
The Spanish court rejected that proposal, lifting the arrest warrant altogether.
“Withdrawing the European arrest warrants demonstrates the immense weakness of this case,” Puigdemont tweeted.