Carles Puigdemont freed after arrest in Italy

Ex-Catalan leader was arrested in Sardinia on Thursday.

Carles Puigdemont freed after arrest in Italy

ROME — A judge in Sardinia has ordered the release of former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont after his arrest on Thursday, but ruled that he must remain on the island.

Puigdemont was detained at the airport when he arrived to take part in a Catalan cultural festival and meet Sardinian separatists, and spent the night in custody.

Puigdemont first fled Spain in 2017 to go into self-exile in Belgium following the region’s failed bid for independence, which Spanish courts had declared unconstitutional. Belgian courts have since blocked the extradition of him and other former Catalan leaders for charges they face in Spain over the independence push.

Upon arrival in Italy, Puigdemont was arrested under a new European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2019, which was then suspended by a Belgian judge in January 2020.

A court in Sassari on Friday ruled that there was no reason to keep Puigdemont in custody, but ordered that he stay in Sardinia while the question of his extradition was settled, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. 

Puigdemont, now an MEP, was stripped of his European parliamentary immunity in March. He went to the Court of Justice of the EU in an attempt to have the lifting of his immunity suspended, but his request was rejected in July, leaving him open to prosecution and possible extradition to Spain. His lawyer said Friday that they would appeal in a bid to get his parliamentary immunity back.

The former Catalan leader’s release followed protests outside the court and calls from politicians of all stripes for his release.  

Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said: “We have trouble arresting Italian delinquents and we arrest parliamentarians from other nations?” adding that he “hoped Italy would not carry out vendettas or justice at the request of other countries.”

Senator Roberto Rampi of the leftist Democrats said: “I find it beyond any logic to arrest an MEP in office. He must be immediately released.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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EU slams Russia for targeting German politicians

A hacking group affiliated with Russian intelligence services has plagued German politicians in the run-up to this week's vote.

EU slams Russia for targeting German politicians

The European Union’s chief diplomat on Friday accused hackers with ties to the Russian state of threatening “the core functioning of our democracies.”

A Russian hacking group, which conducts disinformation campaigns known as “Ghostwriter,” is assumed to be behind a campaign targeting German federal and regional parliament members with fake emails in an attempt to draw out compromising information. Germany’s foreign ministry said this month the Russian state bore responsibility for the attacks.

“These malicious cyber activities … are contrary to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace as endorsed by all U.N. member states, and attempt to undermine our democratic institutions and processes,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, said in a statement.

With days to go before Germans head to the polls, security authorities are on high alert for disinformation and cyberattacks, including from the hackers behind Ghostwriter, that could harm the integrity of the vote.

“We urge the Russian Federation to adhere to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace,” Borrell said, adding the bloc is still considering “taking further steps,” which could mean imposing sanctions like asset freezes and travel bans on individuals.

The group has also hacked Polish politicians earlier this year, triggering a national scandal over leaked private emails of top officials, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye linked parts of the Ghostwriter attacks to a group called UNC1151, affiliated with the Russian military intelligence service GRU.

The hackers previously targeted officials in Lithuania, Latvia and the military alliance NATO with fake emails and letters spread in local media.

The EU could impose sanctions on the hackers if all member countries sign off on them. The bloc placed the first-ever round of such sanctions on high-profile Russian, Chinese and North Korean groups in July 2020. In October 2020 the EU also sanctioned Russian GRU officials for hacking Germany’s national parliament.

Lithuania’s Vice-minister of National Defence Margiris Abukevičius told POLITICO earlier the bloc “must make use of measures [available to the EU] … including possible application of cyber sanctions.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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