The fugitive Catalan president has been arrested in an unexpected place

The last time we checked in on former Catalan president and current fugitive Carles Puigdemont he was leaving Belgium for some scheduled events in Denmark. Those meetings went smoothly by all accounts and Puigdemont continued his legal maneuvers while the Government of Spain continued to seek his extradition on charges of sedition, following the recent Catalonian independence bid. That all changed this week when the exiled leader strayed over the border from Denmark into Germany where he was promptly arrested. (Boston Globe)

Authorities in Germany arrested former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Sunday after he crossed into the country from Denmark, setting up a possible extradition of the fugitive separatist leader to Spain.

Puigdemont’s lawyer said his client had been taken to a police station. German police confirmed that Puigdemont had been arrested at 11:19 a.m. Sunday by highway patrol officers in Schleswig-Holstein, a state that borders Denmark.

Prosecutors said a court would decide at a procedural hearing Monday whether to keep Puigdemont in custody pending a Spanish extradition request.

Suspicions have been raised that there were some dirty dealing going on surrounding this arrest. Up until now, European leaders have largely been leaving the handling of Puigdemont’s case to the EU. Spain is seeking extradition through the normal channels while Carles and his attorneys have been able to travel freely while contesting the request. But the German government was supposedly tipped off by Spanish intelligence assets and somehow convinced to arrest the exiled leader when he crossed the border.

Meanwhile, back home in Spain, news of the arrest led to thousands of pro-independence protesters flooding the streets of Barcelona, leading authorities to break out some serious muscle to put down the demonstrations. With the crowd chanting, “freedom for the political prisoners,” local media reported 89 injuries, though fortunately nobody was killed. This video from the CBC captures some of the mayhem and it was not mild in any sense of the word.

Madrid has a real problem on their hands. If they manage to extradite Puigdemont under these circumstances, put him on trial and send him to prison for decades, these localized riots could easily turn into a full-scale rebellion. Perhaps not everyone agrees with the idea of Catalonia exiting and becoming a separate nation, but the heavy-handed tactics of the Spanish government are bringing back memories of darker days when political opponents of the ruling government simply disappeared or wound up dead. This Catalonian independence movement is leaving Spain at a tipping point, and their history reminds us just how bad things can get there.