Ex-Catalonia Chief, Free D By German Jail, Demands Talks With Spain

The supreme and the prosecution are trying to keep the crime of rebellion alive

Catalonia's Carles Puigdemont calls on Madrid to 'respect democracy'

"The time for dialogue has arrived", he declared, condemning the "violent and repressive response" the push for secession has received from the Spanish government.

Catalonia's former president, Carles Puigdemont, said on Saturday that Spain must "respect democracy and global treaties" in its treatment of the region and its politicians.

Puigdemont's release is also an embarrassing blow for Spain's conservative government, which has insisted the dispute over Catalan separatism is a legal issue, not a political one, and has refused to be drawn into negotiations with the former Catalan president and his supporters since October's banned referendum. Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds.

Puigdemont, granted bail after German judges ruled he could not be extradited on charges of "rebellion" brought by Spain, thanked prison staff as he emerged to cheers and people waving Catalan flags.

Misuse of public funds carries a sentence of around eight years at Spain, while a rebellion sentence can hit 30 years.

"I hope the situation could help". REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke "My wish is to return to Belgium".

"This opens a new opportunity of dialogue".

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Catalan separatist and the former head of the regional government Carles Puigdemont paid bail on Friday, allowing him to walk out of jail after he was arrested last month on a European warrant.

"We feel that comments on judges' decisions at this point are not appropriate", he told reporters in the southern Spanish city of Seville. He was trying to drive from Finland to Belgium, where he had been living since fleeing to escape arrest in Spain.

However, Puigdemont may yet face extradition on separate charges of misusing government funds during his time in office.

The state court in Schleswig said Thursday that the charge of rebellion wouldn't warrant extradition because the equivalent German law presumes the use or threat of force sufficient to bend the will of authorities.

Barley said it was now up to Spain to prove their embezzlement charges against Puigdemont, which she said "won't be easy".

Spain is seeking Puigdemont's extradition for rebellion and misuse of public funds in organising an unauthorised referendum previous year on Catalonia's independence from Spain.

"It is an embarrassment for Europe that we still have political prisoners", Puigdemont said referencing the pro-independence Catalan political and social leaders who have been jailed after the referendum.

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