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The arrest yesterday of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Sardinia by Italian authorities risks an uptick in political tensions in the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia. Spanish authorities have already called on the Italian courts to allow for his extradition to face trial.
- Puigdemont, who served as Catalan president from 2016 to 2017 and is wanted in Spain on charges of sedition, has lived in Brussels, Belgium for several years having used his previous status as a member of the European Parliament to avoid arrest although the body lifted his immunity in March 2021.
- Puigdemont is set to appear in court later today, with the Italian courts now in the position to decide on whether he should be extradited to Spain to face trial. Similar claims for extradition were thrown out by Belgium's highest court in 2018 with the rationale that the crimes Puigdemont was charged with in Spain do not exist under Belgian law.
- The response from Barcelona has been one of anger. Incumbent President Pere Aragones tweeted that "In the face of persecution and judicial repression, the strongest condemnation. It has to stop," while former president Quim Torra called on separatist activists to be 'on high alert' and that Puigdemont's extradition would be 'catastrophic'.
- The Catalan separatist movement has seen a significant calming in its activities over the past two years (hindered significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic). The previous regional election in February 2021 delivered a narrow majority for Catalan nationalist parties both in terms of seats and the overall vote share.
- While Puigdemont's popularity and standing has likely waned during his period in political exile, should he be extradited and put on trial in Madrid it could see a significant uptick in separatist activity and protest in Catalonia.