Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain said on Friday that his government would respect the judicial decisions, but added: “It is obvious that Puigdemont must face justice.”
Spain has repeatedly issued international warrants in an attempt to prosecute Mr. Puigdemont. But the latest effort came at a critical moment, just over a week after Mr. Sánchez visited Barcelona, the regional capital of Catalonia, to start a fresh round of negotiations with separatist politicians aimed at ending a territorial conflict that has been Spain’s biggest political headache for the past decade.
The Italian court requested Mr. Puigdemont’s presence in Sassari for a hearing on Oct. 4 to assess whether to return him to Spain. But Italian legal experts said that if Mr. Puigdemont did not return to Italy for the hearing, his absence would almost certainly cause the judge to simply end the proceedings.
“The main requirement of any European arrest warrant, or even of any extradition, is that the person wanted is in the country,” said Roberto De Vita, an international lawyer based in Rome.
“The court hearings could technically also continue, but the case is over,” said Stefano Maffei, a law professor specializing in extraditions and European arrest warrants at the University of Parma. “Ultimately the court granted him freedom. It is unlikely that they will arrest him again.”
The Italian court stated that Mr. Puigdemont’s immunity across Europe, granted by his election to the European Parliament in 2019, “is still intact,” even though the same European Parliament stripped him of his immunity in March and a European court upheld that decision in July.
Lawyers defending Mr. Puigdemont say that Spain’s arrest warrant had been suspended before his trip to Italy, but the Italian judges validated the arrest.