German court authorises extradition of Carles Puigdemont

Blanche Robertson
July 12, 2018

A German court on Thursday removed a hurdle to the extradition of a prominent Catalan politician on charges of embezzlement, setting the stage for a possible trial in Spain but on lesser charges than prosecutors there had hoped for.

A German court has ruled that former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who led the Spanish region's recent failed bid for independence, can be extradited to Spain on a corruption charge, but not on a charge of rebellion against the government in Madrid.

The court has not made a decision to impose any precautionary measures on Puigdemont, meaning that he remains a free man.

The charge of rebellion is not recognized in Germany and the court said related German statutes such as that against treason did not apply, because his actions "did not rise to this kind of violence".

A spokeswoman confirmed: "The Higher Regional Court this morning has decided that an extradition for the alleged misappropriation of public funds is allowed".

"The amount of violence required for the charge of high treason was not seen in the altercations in Spain".

"He was not a "spiritual leader" of violence", the court said in a statement.

The former Catalan president fled Spain for Belgium in October after his administration's declaration of independence from Spain led to the central government in Madrid taking direct control of the regional government.

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He and a number of his former colleagues are facing charges for their role in the pro-independence drive, which reached its peak previous year with an illegal referendum on secession from Spain and the aforementioned declaration. In Spain, he could face imprisonment.

He went on to claim that both shared the "same goal" of independence, despite 55 per cent of voters in Scotland rejecting the proposal in 2014.

Puigdemont's press spokesman, Joan Maria Pique, issued a short statement saying that without the rebellion charge the "main Spanish accusation falls".

The decision of the German court is not final, and sources from Puigdemont's legal team have told EL PAÍS that they are planning to appeal the decision to extradite him for misuse of funds at the country's Constitutional Court. If extradited, he will not be tried for rebellion.

Puigdemont fled Spain to avoid jail and has been living in the German city of Hamburg as he fights extradition.

However, the court will do so only on the charges of misuse of public funds that the Spanish authorities have filed against him, and not for the crime of rebellion.

This is a breaking news story. "This would have been an argument available to Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan Ministers had they contested their extradition from England".

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