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Ex-Catalan leader to face German court in extradition proceedings

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Ex-Catalan leader to face German court in extradition proceedings

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was due to appear in a court in northern Germany on March 26 ahead of a possible extradition to Spain to face charges of sedition and rebellion, media reports said.

Puigdemont was picked up by German police acting on a European arrest warrant while returning to Belgium, where he had been in exile since fleeing Spain following the failed Catalan independence push in October 2017.

The Spanish supreme court on March 23 charged Puigdemont for his role in leading the Catalan independence bid that culminated in a unilateral declaration of independence in October 2017, which prompted Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to impose direct rule on the region and call for regional elections in December 2017, the newspaper said.

The judges of the higher regional court in Schleswig, Germany have 60 days to decide whether or not to extradite Puigdemont to Spain. The ex-Catalan leader, who has denied wrongdoing, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, the FT said.

Puigdemont will appear in court on March 26 to have his remand extended, Reuters quoted German prosecutors as saying in a statement. Paul Bekaert, who represents Puigdemont in Belgium, told Reuters TV that his client will take German legal representation and the whole legal process, including possible appeals, will likely take months.

Tens of thousands of Catalans staged protests in Barcelona on March 25, chanting support for Puigdemont and calling for the release of jailed separatist leaders. In the same March 23 ruling, the Spanish supreme court decided that 25 Catalan leaders would be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state, Reuters reported.

Puigdemont's detention threatens to escalate tensions in Catalonia, where pro-independence parties clinched the majority in parliament in the December 2017 elections but have failed to form a government since their chosen leadership candidates are either in exile or in pre-trial detention. If a new Catalan president is not elected by May, fresh elections would be triggered, the FT said.