German court grants Carles Puigdemont bail and refuses to recognise Spanish rebellion charge

Puigdemont greets press after leaving the detention centre in Neumünster on Friday.
Puigdemont greets press after leaving the detention centre in Neumünster on Friday. / REUTERS
  • The former Catalan leader left the detention centre where he was being held in Neumünster on Friday

In a major setback for Spanish authorities on Thursday afternoon, a regional court in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein agreed to free the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont. Judges there ruled out extraditing him on the Spanish offence of rebellion.

It had been hoped by the Spanish Supreme Court that Germany would compare its own offence of high treason to that of rebellion, and so agree to return Puigdemont to Spain on a more serious charge. The Catalan leader has been held in Germany since last month.

Puigdemont was ordered pay 75,000 euros bail while German judges decide whether still to extradite him on the less-serious charge of embezzlement.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, three Catalan leaders living in Belgium and also wanted on rebellion in Spain handed themselves in to the authorities there so a judge could decide whether to release them on bail or not while Spain's extradition request is being considered.

Former police chief charged

To add to the former and current political leaders charged with offences for their part in the banned referendum and declaration of independence in Catalonia last autumn, on Thursday the investigating judge at Madrid's Supreme Court charged the former head of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the regional police force, with rebellion and organised crime.

Josep Lluís Trapero was summoned to appear in court on 16 April. Some other policing heads in the former Catalan government were also charged with similar offences.

Catalan MPs consider options

With the clock ticking towards a fresh regional election in around six weeks if a new Catalan president isn't chosen by regional MPs, the Speaker of the parliament has been considering allowing Puigdemont to give a proxy MP's vote from Germany to help MPs' voting numbers in favour of the main separatist parties' candidates. However lawyers have warned that the move could be ruled as illegal

On Thursday, earlier candidate for president, Jordi Sànchez, currently in Madrid in jail, announced he was willing to try to stand again in an effort to achieve a consensus candidacy among separatist MPs.

World Race yachting is off

Meanwhile, the committee organising the Barcelona World Race, a major yachting competition due in the city again in 2019, said that it was cancelling the event as the ongoing political uncertainty had made it difficult to find companies interested in sponsoring it. It plans to hold it in 2023.