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Spain drops arrest warrant for Catalan leader after Germany bars rebellion charge

Spain’s Supreme Court dropped a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday after Germany refused to extradite him to face a charge of rebellion for declaring Catalonia independent last year.

A German court ruled a week ago that Puigdemont could be extradited to Spain to face a separate charge for misuse of public funds. But under European law, if that extradition were to go ahead, Spain could not then try him on the more serious charge of rebellion.

The Spanish court rejected that proposal, lifting the arrest warrant altogether. It also dropped European arrest warrants for five other Catalan pro-independence leaders living abroad.

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It is the second time Spain has revoked the arrest warrant for Puigdemont since he went into self-exile when his independence bid for Catalonia collapsed last year.

Puigdemont initially travelled to Belgium where the prospect of charges being restricted led Spain to drop the arrest warrant in December. The judge reissued it later, causing Germany to arrest Puigdemont when he travelled there in April.

Puigdemont’s Catalan government held an independence referendum last year, despite a Spanish court having ruled that the vote violated the constitution.

After the vote, the Catalan regional authorities declared independence, prompting Madrid to impose direct rule, fire the region’s government and hold new elections.

Several other Catalan politicians are now in custody in Madrid on rebellion charges that carry a potential 30 year sentence. Madrid would consider it unacceptable for Puigdemont to face only the lesser charges of misuse of public funds, which carry a maximum eight year jail term.

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