Saturday 17 November 2018

German court orders Puigdemont release on €75,000 bail

Carles Puigdemont
Carles Puigdemont

Geir Moulson in Schleswig

A German court has ordered the release of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on bail pending a decision on his extradition to Spain.

Judges found the most serious charge of rebellion is not punishable under German law.

The court in Schleswig set bail at €75,000 for the 55-year-old to leave prison.

It was not immediately clear when he would be released, though it appeared unlikely before this morning.

"We will see each other tomorrow. Thank you all!" read a message posted on his Twitter feed.

Mr Puigdemont was detained on a European arrest warrant shortly after entering Germany on March 25.

He was trying to drive from Finland to Belgium, where has been living since fleeing to escape arrest in Spain. He has been held at a prison in Neumuenster.

Spanish authorities accuse Mr Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse of public funds in organising an unauthorised referendum last year on Catalonia's independence from Spain.

German prosecutors argued earlier this week the main charge of rebellion was equivalent to treason in Germany, which 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 yesterday, saying Mr Puigdemont cannot be extradited for rebellion.

It ruled the accusations against Mr Puigdemont did not satisfy the precedents set by previous German decisions, 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.

Judges will consider Mr Puigdemont's extradition on the less serious charge of misusing public funds, meaning he could only face trial for that if he were returned to Spain.

They said that there was no indication he could be "exposed to the danger of political persecution".

The court said that because Mr Puigdemont cannot be extradited for rebellion he posed less of a flight risk and could be released on bail.

If Mr Puigdemont makes the payment, he cannot leave Germany without prosecution approval, must inform authorities of every change of residence and report to police once a week.

A Spanish official said the government in Madrid respected judicial decisions "always, when it likes them and when it doesn't".

Mr Puigdemont's Spanish lawyer welcomed the court's decision.

"I always said that I had full confidence in the German judiciary," Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas wrote on Twitter, adding: "We continue."

Irish Independent

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