Former Catalan leader can be extradited on corruption charges, German court rules

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is in Germany

A German court ruled on Thursday that former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont could be extradited to Spain for alleged misuse of public funds, but it rejected a request to send him back to answer a more serious charge of rebellion.

"We have defeated the main lie upheld by the state [Spain]".

The German court has rejected the arguments of Spanish High Court Judge Pablo Llarena, who has been trying to see Puigdemont extradited to face charges of rebellion.

"The accusation of misuse of public funds is acceptable, extradition for rebellion is not acceptable", the German court stated in a press release. "Breach of the public peace does not apply because Carles Puigdemont was only involved in carrying out the [independence] referendum", the court said in a statement, adding that he was not a "spiritual leader" of violence.

The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government's unauthorized referendum previous year on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.

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

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Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution by the Spanish judiciary.

Meanwhile, new Catalan president Quim Torra met Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh on Wednesday, in an event that represented the "starting point" for a close relationship between Catalonia and Scotland. If extradited, he will not be tried for rebellion.

A spokesman for the Schleswig-Holstein prosecutor said that it would grant extradition "soon" after the ruling by the superior regional court of Schleswig-Holstein, the northern state where Mr Puigdemont was arrested on March 25 on a Spanish-issued European arrest warrant.

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.

The ruling means that if the extradition goes ahead, Spain can only try Puigdemont on the charge of embezzlement and not for rebellion. "We will fight to the end, and we will win!", Puigdemont said, referring to other pro-independence Catalan leaders in detention.

This is a breaking news story.

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