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Ex-Catalan President Calls For Dialogue With Spain As He Leaves Jail On Bail

The Guardian, UK: The former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has called for political dialogue with the Spanish government as he left a German prison after being granted bail.

The Schleswig-Holstein district court rejected an extradition request on a charge of rebellion for Puigdemont’s role in the campaign for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, but said extradition was possible on a lesser charge of misuse of public funds.

Leaving prison shortly before 2 PM on Friday, he called on Madrid to abandon its attempts to prosecute separatist leaders and urged it to enter into discussions instead. Puigdemont thanked prison staff as he emerged to meet people cheering and waving Catalan flags.

“I claim for the immediate release of all my colleagues in Spanish prisons,” he said. “It is a shame for Europe to have political prisoners. Finally, the time for dialogue has arrived. We have demanded dialogue for several years and we have only received violence and repression.”

Puigdemont announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon that he was going to Berlin, but would have to report back to a police station in Neumünster once a week until a final judgement was announced.

He was arrested on a Spanish-issued warrant upon entering Germany on 25 March as he attempted to drive from Finland to Belgium.

The court set bail at €75,000 (£66,000), a sum that the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) announced it had paid from a “solidarity fund” and with the help of the cultural association Òmnium Cultural.

In a blow to Spanish authorities, the court ruled out extraditing the Catalan politician on a charge a charge of rebellion, because the comparable German charge of treason specifies violence.

As a result, Puigdemont could now only be tried in Spain on a lesser charge of misuse of public funds, which the court said it still considered sufficient grounds for an extradition.

Puigdemont’s German lawyer, Wolfgang Schomburg, said he would continue pushing for judges to rule out his extradition on the lesser charge.

In Madrid, the Spanish government remained tight-lipped about its next moves . “Some judicial decisions we like more, others we like less”, said the justice minister, Rafael Catalá.

A German government spokesperson reiterated the view that the Catalonia conflict required a solution “within Spain’s legal and constitutional order”.

A group of delegates for German leftwing party Die Linke issued a statement on Friday in which they offered Puigdemont assistance in finding an apartment in Berlin, as well as financial support. MPs Andrej Hunko, Zaklin Nastic and Diether Dehm described the court’s decision as “a slap in the face for Madrid, Berlin and the general prosecutor”.

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