Puigdemont’s arrest: Catalan leader is not a criminal

When Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visited Ireland in May 2011 she was shown a small statue of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, by college historian John A Murphy and told the strange story of how, in 1934, amidst republican fervour, the beautiful limestone sculpture was buried in the garden of UCC.

It was finally unearthed in 1995 to mark the 150th anniversary of what used to be Queen’s University Cork.

Prof Murphy was often asked why the statue had not been destroyed by university authorities. His response: “Because they were nationalists, not vandals.”

By the same token, the leader of the Catalan movement, Carles Puigdemont, is a nationalist and not the dangerous revolutionary painted by Spanish authorities. Yet he was arrested yesterday in Germany on foot of an international warrant issued by the Spanish Supreme Court.

Puigdemont is wanted by Spain for “sedition”, an ancient transgression that amounts to no more than encouraging dissent against the established order.

This is not the proper prosecution of a criminal. It is the persecution of a political leader, albeit a turbulent one.

The hounding of Puigdemont is an overtly political act by the Spanish authorities that is unworthy of any democracy, let alone one in the European Union. It should be resisted, not aided or encouraged, by other EU states.

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