Catalan police break up pro-independence motorway protest

Catalan police break up pro-independence motorway protest”

A court in the German town of Neumuenster ordered Puigdemont to remain in custody pending possible extradition to Spain.

Spanish authorities accuse Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse of public funds in organising an unauthorised referendum past year on independence for Catalonia.

His arrest came two days after Spain's supreme court issued worldwide arrest warrants for 13 Catalan separatists including Puigdemont and his nominated successor Jordi Turull.

Puigdemont's lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, has argued that the rebellion charges in Spain would be punishable in Germany only if conducted through violent means, and that Puigdemont was never violent. A spokeswoman for the German prosecutor's office said it would "probably not come this week" ahead of the four-day Easter holiday.

Mr Puigdemont went into self-imposed exile in Belgium past year, shortly after the Catalan parliament made a symbolic declaration of independence from Spain.

A decision on extradition must normally be made within 60 days under German law.

At least 90 individuals have been injured, including 20 security officers who fired warning shots in an attempt to disperse the angry protesting crowds.

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Steffen Seibert, the official spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said it was the federal government's view that the conflict between Madrid and Barcelona has to be solved "within the framework of the Spanish legal and constitutional order" and that Berlin had already assisted the Spanish government towards this end during the past months.

Her spokesman insisted on Monday that the decision on Puigdemont's extradition rested exclusively in the hands of the German regional justice authorities.

Spain's deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria welcomed the arrest as "good news". He and 12 other separatist leaders were officially charged with rebellion. Twelve more face less serious charges such as disobedience.

The 55-year-old Puigdemont who is being held at the prison in Neumuenster, lived in exile in Brussels after fleeing Spain five months ago and thus had a "significant incentive" to return to Belgium, a court statement read. That vote had been swiftly followed by the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence on October 27.

Germany's criminal code - unlike Belgium's, where Spain had earlier sought Puigdemont's extradition - includes an offense that appears to be comparable to rebellion, the main accusation against the Catalan politician.

Puigdemont was detained by German police in the north of the country, following a request by the Spanish police. "Spain does not guarantee a fair trial; only revenge and repression", she wrote on Twitter. Fresh regional elections will be triggered if a new leader is not elected by May 22.

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