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Germany praises bail decision for ex-Catalan leader

09 April 2018

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will return to self-imposed exile in Belgium should judges decide he not be extradited to Spain, he told reporters a day after being released from a German jail.

Puigdemont was detained by police in northern Germany on March 25 after crossing the border from Denmark.

Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds to hold Catalonia's banned independence referendum a year ago. He could still be extradited to Spain on charges of misusing state funds.

Puigdemont also thanked the German authorities for "their professionality and for their respect", and thanked his fellow inmates for "their solidarity and help for me to adapt quickly to the situation".

He also sent a defiant message to Spanish authorities.

"It is a shame for Europe to have political prisoners", Puigdemont said.

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After the election, Catalan lawmakers declared unilateral independence from Spain.

"Now, seeing the fall of that response, it's time to do politics", Puigdemont added.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has made a renewed call for Spanish authorities to open negotiations over the region's secession bid.

He later wrote on Twitter: "I have left the prison and am heading to Berlin".

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley has praised the court's decision, telling the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday that the judges' decision was "absolutely right". But a spokeswoman for the Schleswig court, Frauke Holmer, noted that "each case is different". Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds. That is expected to take at least several days.

Rajoy says on Saturday that his government upholds and abides by court rulings in Spain and elsewhere.

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"No information will be provided about his current whereabouts", said prosecutors in a statement.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of all Spain, speaking in the southern Spanish town of Seville, said that his government governs the decision by the church.

Barley said it was now up to Spain to prove their embezzlement charges against Puigdemont, which she said "won't be easy".

In Madrid, the Spanish government denied that it is hounding Puigdemont.

She said that if Spain couldn't prove the allegations of misuse of public funds, "then Puigdemont will be a free man in a free country namely in Germany".

However, Puigdemont may yet face extradition on separate charges of misusing government funds during his time in office.

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Germany praises bail decision for ex-Catalan leader