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Iran Press TV

Ex-Catalan leader will stay in Germany until extradition probe concludes

Iran Press TV

Sat Apr 7, 2018 02:47PM

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has announced that he will stay in Germany, the country where he was arrested last month and then freed pending a probe into an extradition request by Spain.

Puigdemont said Saturday, one day after he was released from a jail in northern Germany, that he would stay in Berlin until judges investigate all charges brought against him by Spain over an independence push he led in Catalonia last year.

A court in the German state of Schwesig, where Puigdemont had been arrested two weeks ago, dropped charges of rebellion against the exiled leader, saying the charges did not warrant extradition because the accusation was not punishable under German law.

However, Puigdemont can still be extradited on lighter charges of misuse of public funds, although authorities said Spain would have a difficult task to prove the charges.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley said if Spain could not prove the allegations against the former Catalan leader, a task she said "won't be easy", then Puigdemont "will be a free man in a free country". The German minister also hailed the court's decision to free Puigdemont on bail, saying it was "absolutely right".

Spain wants Puigdemont over his decision to call a referendum of independence in Catalonia in early October last year and then a declaration of independence he made late that month which prompted Madrid to impose direct rule and dismantle Puigdemont's regional government.

The crackdown forced Puigdemont and four of his ministers into exile in Belgium where authorities refused to extradite the fugitive leaders based on a European arrest warrant. A second warrant was issued by Madrid to have Puigdemont arrested when he entered Germany from Denmark last month.

Puigdemont said Saturday that if he is not sent back to Spain by German courts, he would return to Belgium.

He also said that German court's decision to free him showed that there was a need for dialogue" in Catalonia to defuse the political conflict in Spain.

"This opens a new opportunity of dialogue," Puigdemont toold reporters, adding, "I hope the situation could help ... Spanish authorities understand that political measures are needed."

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