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Germany: Ex-Catalan leader could be extradited for graft not rebellion

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – A court in Germany has finally reached a decision on the fate of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, saying the fugitive leader can be extradited to Spain over misuse of public funds but not rebellion.

The court in Schleswig-Holstein, where Puigdemont was arrested in late March, said in its Thursday ruling that the former Catalan leader could be handed over to Spain but on the condition that he would not face prosecution back home on charges of rebellion, which Madrid brought against him over an independence bid last year.

Puigdemont was released on April 6 pending a trial based on an extradition request on the charge of rebellion, which is not punishable under the German law.

Prosecutors then asked for the extradition of the Catalan politician based on the closest equivalent in the German penal code, which is high treason. However, judges argued in their ruling that Puidgemont’s holding of a referendum in Catalonia in early October and the declaration of independence later that month did not constitute a form of high treason.

“Breach of the public peace does not apply because Carles Puigdemont was only involved in carrying out the (independence) referendum … The alleged actions by the former Catalan government leader do not amount to the German crime of high treason nor the charge of breach of the public peace,” said the court in its new ruling, adding, “The amount of violence required for the charge of high treason was not seen in the altercations in Spain.”

The court stated that Puigdemont could remain free in Germany pending extradition on the lesser charge of the misuse of public funds related to the cost of holding the Catalan referendum. It said that Spain would be obliged to try the accused on charges approved in the extradition order based on European legal practice.

Puigdemont hailed the ruling in a Twitter post, saying it proved the unjustified nature of Spain’s harsh legal actions against advocates of Catalonia’s independence following the referendum.

“The German justice system says that the October 1 referendum was not a rebellion,” he said, adding, “Every minute spent in prison by our comrades is a minute of shame and injustice. We will fight until the end and win!”

Puigdemont failed in his bid to rule Catalonia from exile as president and handpicked Quim Torra as his successor in May. Torra was elected by 66 votes to 65 in the regional parliament and assumed office in the same month.

Torra has managed to convince the new Spanish government to move jailed Catalan separatist leaders from a place around the capital Madrid to a prison in Catalonia.

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