The German government has rejected calls from the lawyer of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont’s to overturn a decision by a regional court which ordered that the ex-separatist leader needed to be extradited to Spain to faces charges of inciting a rebellion.
“It is in the hands of the courts,” a justice ministry spokesman said. Puigdemont’s lawyers argue that a referendum is not a criminal offence.
The move is a further blow to Puigdemont, who has been held in prison in the northern German town of Neumuenster for just over a week after being arrested in Germany on March 25 soon after crossing the border from Denmark.
Puigdemont had also filed a complaint in Belgium after the discovery nearly two weeks ago of a tracking device placed under his vehicle. His advisors say the tracking device is a violation of privacy.
Puigdemont’s detention leaves the independence movement weaker than it has been in years, with almost all its leaders behind bars before trial or in exile.
Prosecutors in the state of Schleswig-Holstein said Spain’s extradition request was admissible because the accusations of planning a rebellion included carrying out an anti-constitutional referendum that could have caused violent clashes.
“This has a comparable equivalent in German law,” said the prosecutors in a statement, adding that in Germany this counted as high treason, adding that the Spanish court’s allegations that Puigdemont misuse public money – for an unconstitutional referendum – could also be punished in Germany.
Puigdemont fled Spain five months ago for Belgium after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed his regional administration and imposed direct rule from Madrid in response to the Catalan parliament declaring independence.
The charges, made via a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, over the organising of an illegal referendum on independence in October, could lead to 25 years behind bars. Asked about the decision at a news conference in Algiers, Rajoy said Spain would respect the decision of German courts.
“We are countries that deeply respect the rule of law … and the separation of powers,” he said.
On Monday, Puigdemont appealed against the charge of rebellion in Spain’s Supreme Court, saying he did not commit any acts of violence. He also appealed against the charge of misuse of public funds.
The Spanish court aims to try a total of 25 Catalan leaders for rebellion and other charges. International arrest warrants are active against four other politicians who fled abroad last year, including Clara Ponsati, a former Catalan education minister who is fighting extradition from her home in Scotland.