The Higher Regional Court of Schleswig-Holstein has authorised the surrender of Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont to Madrid.
“Extradition for the charge of misappropriation of public funds is admissible, extradition for the charge of rebellion is not admissible,” said the court.
It is up to the prosecutor to organise his handover to the Spanish authorities, adds the court, which states that “Carles Puigdemont remains free” in the meantime. The prosecution said it would “soon decide whether to extradite the accused for embezzlement.”
Pursued for rebellion and embezzlement in Spain because of the Catalan independence referendum held in autumn 2017, Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium after his removal from the Catalan presidency by Madrid. He was arrested at the end of March in northern Germany on his way back to Belgium from a trip to Finland.
The German magistrates announced in April that the former Catalan president, dismissed by the Spanish government at the end of October 2017, could not be extradited for rebellion, but could be extradited for embezzlement of public funds.
This decision is a blow to the Spanish charges, because it could prevent a trial for rebellion, a crime punishable by thirty years in prison in Spain: “The court assumes that the Spanish court will respect [the German decision] and that it will not prosecute the defendant Puigdemont for rebellion in addition to the accusation of corruption.”
The judges also rejected the arguments of the Catalan separatist, who considered that he was a victim of political prosecution and that therefore his extradition should be banned. “It is absurd to bring [such an accusation] against the Spanish state, member of the community of values and the legal space of the European Union,” the court said.
Pedro Sanchez, the head of the Spanish government, said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels that Carles Puigdemont and all those implicated in the abortive attempt to secede in Catalonia in autumn 2017 should “be judged by the Spanish courts.”
In total, twenty-five Catalan separatist leaders are indicted for their role in this case. Among them, thirteen are accused of rebellion. Nine are in custody, and four have fled abroad, like Carles Puigdemont.