Exiled Catalan ex-leader Puigdemont hopes to return to Belgium

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Catalonia's former president, Carles Puigdemont, said on Saturday that Spain must "respect democracy and worldwide treaties" in its treatment of the region and its politicians. Several ministers of the former Catalan government were arrested, while Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid arrest.

The German court in Schleswig on Thursday ruled that they will not extradite him on the basis of his rebellion charge, while pending the decision to extradite him on his embezzlement charge.

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".

"I call for the immediate release for all of my colleagues still in Spanish prisons", he said, speaking in English. "My goal is to return to Belgium, but only after the end of the processes here in Germany - not before". "But only after the end of the proceedings here in Germany, not before", he told reporters in Berlin.

"My plan is to remain of course in Berlin".

A German court ruled on Thursday that it would only consider extraditing ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on the charge of misuse of public funds to hold a banned referendum on independence for Catalonia a year ago. He had been there since March 25, when he was arrested crossing the border from Denmark.

TRT World spoke with Barcelona-based journalist Marah Rayan for more details.

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Justice Minister Katarina Barley of Germany applauded that the courtroom's conclusion to spare Mr. Puigdemont on bail as "entirely appropriate" and exactly what she'd expected.

He says the Spanish government "met its obligations" by imposing direct rule on Catalonia after Puigdemont and other separatists organized the independence referendum past year.

The German court decided the charge of rebellion did not warrant extradition, because the accusation isn't punishable under German law. Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds.

Puigdemont's lawyer, Wolfgang Schomburg, said he was confident of convincing the court not to allow his client's extradition on the misuse of funds charges.

"The time for dialogue has arrived", he declared, condemning the "violent and repressive response" the push for secession has received from the Spanish government.

The Spanish Supreme Court is considering appealing to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on extradition procedures among EU member states.

After walking out of jail, Puigdemont called for the release of so-called political prisoners in Spain, notably those who were arrested for their involvement in the Catalan independence referendum.

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