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German court refuses to extradite Catalan ex-regional president Puigdemont on rebellion charges

Daniel Reinhardt / dpa / AFP | A Catalan pro-independence Estelada flag is attached to a fence of the prison in Neumuenster, northern Germany, where Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont is detained, on April 3, 2018.

A German court on Thursday refused a request from Spain to extradite Catalonia's ousted leader Carles Puigdemont on a rebellion charge following his arrest in Germany last month.

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A German court ruled Thursday that former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont can be released on bail pending a decision on his extradition to Spain, saying the most serious charge Puigdemont faces isn't punishable under German law.

The state court in Schleswig said the 55-year-old ex-president of Spain's Catalonia region could leave a prison in northern Germany with a 75,000-euro ($92,000) payment. It wasn't immediately clear when Puigdemont would be released.

Puigdemont was detained in Germany on a Spanish arrest warrant as he attempted to drive from Finland to Belgium on March 25. He fled to Belgium after Spain's prime minister removed him from office and a sedition investigation was launched against politicians who led Catalonia's declaration of independence in October.

Spanish authorities accuse Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse of public funds in organising an unauthorized referendum last year on the region's secession.

German prosecutors argued earlier this week that the main charge of rebellion is equivalent to Germany's criminal offense of treason. German law calls for prison sentences for anyone who "undertakes, by force or through threat of force" to undermine the republic's existence or change its constitutional order.

However, the court disagreed Thursday, saying Puigdemont can't be extradited for rebellion. It found that the accusations against Puigdemont don't satisfy the precedents set by previous German rulings, which call for a use or threat of force sufficient to bend the will of authorities.

"That is not the case here," the court said in a statement.

The German judges will consider Puigdemont's extradition on the less serious charge of misusing public funds. They said there was no indication he could be "exposed to the danger of political persecution."

The court said that because Puigdemont can't extradited for rebellion means he posed less of a flight risk and could be released on bail.

(AP)

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