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Spain Supreme Court orders arrest of former Catalan member of parliament

[JURIST] A magistrate of the Second Chamber of Spain's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered [order, PDF, in Spanish] the arrest of former Catalan member of parliament Anna Gabriel i Sabaté for failing to appear before the court to answer sedition charges in connection with the Catalan independence referendum and declaration of secession [JURIST report] in October.

Sabaté is currently in exile in Geneva and on Tuesday said in an interview to Le Temps [media website, in French], a Swiss newspaper, that she will not return to Spain to face the charges. This statement was confirmed in court by her lawyer D. Benet Salellas Vilar. Specifically, Sabaté had stated: "I will not go to Madrid ... I am being prosecuted for my political activity and the government press has already convicted me. ... Since I will not have a fair trial at home, I have looked for a country that can protect my rights."

Referring to Article 487 of the Spain Criminal Procedure Act, which states that if a summoned individual "does not appear or justify a legitimate cause that prevents [such appearance], the order of appearance may be converted into an arrest warrant," the court found that Sabaté violated this article [press release, in Spanish] and issued an arrest warrant. However, the court stopped short [Reuters report] of issuing an international arrest warrant.

The charges against Sabaté carry up to 30 years in prison. Sabaté stated [Le Temps report, in French] of this order:

Today something has changed in my life: I can not go back to my country. ... I no longer felt protected in Spain. Not only did I feel like I was already guilty before being tried, but I did not stop receiving death threats. ... The charges are extraordinarily serious. We are talking about sedition and rebellion, punishable by 30 years in prison. I never resorted to violence. I just did my job as a member of Parliament.
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled [Guardian report] the country shortly after the independence referendum and is in exile in Brussels with four members of his previous cabinet. As far as Sabaté is concerned, the Switzerland Federal Office of Justice has already announced that it will not honor any extradition request [Le Temps report, in French] from Spain stating that "This is in all likelihood a political offense. According to our Criminal Code and the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF], extradition requests or any form of legal aid can not be granted on any of these grounds."

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