German court says Carles Puigdemont can be released on bail

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont | Emmanuel Dunand  AFP via Getty Images

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont | Emmanuel Dunand AFP via Getty Images

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, and ordered his release on bail pending a hearing on a lesser charge.

The court ruled earlier Thursday that Puigdemont can be released on bail pending a decision on his extradition to Spain, saying the most serious accusation he faces there isn't punishable under German law.

Puigdemont was detained in Germany on a Spanish arrest warrant as he attempted to drive from Finland to Belgium on March 25.

"Puigdemont's Barcelona-based lawyer Jaime Alonso-Cuevillas tweeted: "[Puigdemont] always said that he had full confidence in the German judiciary".

"The court must now decide if extradition for embezzlement is a possibility", said spokeswoman Frauke Holmer.

The Spanish government is continuing to crack down on politicians and other officials who played a role in organizing and facilitating last year's Catalan independence referendum, which was deemed illegal in September 2017 by Spain's Constitutional Court.

The court, in Berlin, said the rebellion charge Puigdemont faced in Spain was not a criminal offence in Germany, while the violence component that would justify a high treason charge was also missing.

However, the court in the northern city of Schleswig said there could be a case to answer for misusing public funds last October to hold an unauthorised independence referendum.

Spain's Supreme Court reactivated worldwide arrest warrants last month for Puigdemont and four other Catalan politicians who went into self-imposed exile previous year.

The Spanish government was not immediately able to comment. It set bail at €75,000 (US$91,710).

In an indictment Thursday, Spanish National Court Judge Carmen Lamela says former Mossos d'Esquadra chief Josep Lluis Trapero was part of an organized plan to seek Catalonia's secession from Spain.

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