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The Latest: Expert sees issues with Spain’s rebellion charge

April 6, 2018

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont greets supporters after he was released on bail from the prison in Neumuenster, northern Germany, Friday, April 6, 2018. (Carsten Rehder /dpa via AP)

NEUMUENSTER, Germany (AP) — The Latest on the Catalonia crisis (all times local):

5:40p.m.

A human rights expert says Spain should avoid pursuing “rebellion” charges against Catalan separatists, highlighting the differences between protest and dissent and actual acts of violence.

The U.N.’s human rights office in a statement Friday noted a conviction on the criminal charge of rebellion can carry up to 30 years in prison in Spain.

The expert, David Kaye, says “prosecutions for ‘rebellion’ that could lead to lengthy jail sentences raise serious risks of deterring wholly legitimate speech.”

Kaye says he is “concerned that charges of rebellion for acts that do not involve violence or incitement to violence may interfere with rights of public protest and dissent.”

Kaye is an independent rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression mandated by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council. He does not speak for the U.N.

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3 p.m.

Spain’s Supreme Court says the magistrate investigating Catalan separatists’ attempt to break away from Spain is considering consulting the European Court of Justice on the procedures for extradition among European Union member states.

The decision follows Carles Puigdemont’s release on bail in Germany after a state court’s ruled against extraditing the former Catalan president to be judged for rebellion, a charge sought by the Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena. The court upheld an embezzlement charge for Puigdemont.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said Llarena was considering consultations to the highest European court on the scope of the bloc’s arrest warrant, a tool that is aimed at removing political red tape in extradition cases among EU members.

The spokeswoman, who spoke anonymously according to court rules, declined to elaborate but said that obtaining clarity on Puigdemont’s extradition process was the goal of the consultations.

— By Aritz Parra

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2:15 p.m.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is calling on Spanish authorities to open a dialogue with Catalan politicians.

Following his release on bail from a German prison, Puigdemont also called for the immediate release of other Catalan separatist leaders being held in Spain.

In a statement in English outside the prison in Neumuenster, Puigdemont said that “the time for dialogue has arrived” and that it was time to “find a political solution.”

He said Catalan leaders have demanded dialogue for six years but have “only received a violent and repressive response.”

He added: “Now, seeing the fall of that response, it’s time to do politics.”

Puigdemont contended that Spanish authorities have “no excuses” not to talk with Catalan leaders “in order to find a political solution of our demands, not by criminal law.”

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2:05 p.m.

The Spanish government denies it is hounding Carles Puigdemont, after a German court decided to release the former Catalan leader on bail pending a decision on his possible extradition to Spain.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo says Puigdemont “is not a victim of political persecution, he’s a fugitive from justice.”

Mendez de Vigo told a regular weekly news conference in Madrid on Friday that the government respects Spanish and German court decisions and doesn’t interfere in their rulings.

He says the Spanish government “met its obligations” by imposing direct rule on Catalonia after Puigdemont and other separatists organized a forbidden referendum last October on Catalonia’s independence.

The government argues that Catalonia’s breakaway bid is a legal issue, not a political one.

The Supreme Court has since charged 14 Catalan separatists, including Puigdemont, with rebellion, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years.

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2 p.m.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has left German jail after posting a 75,000-euro ($92,000) payment demanded by a court for his release on bail pending extradition proceedings.

The 55-year-old has walked out of the Neumuenster prison in northern Germany, almost two weeks after he was detained crossing the border from Denmark.

Speaking to reporters outside the prison he thanked supporters “all around the world” for their message of solidarity during his time in jail.

Spanish authorities accuse Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse of public funds in organizing an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Madrid is seeking his extradition under a European arrest warrant.

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1:15 p.m.

The German government isn’t commenting on a court decision to release former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on bail, stressing that the case is in the hands of the judiciary.

A state court in Schleswig ruled Thursday that Puigdemont can go free on bail pending a decision on whether to extradite him to Spain, and decided that he can’t be extradited on the most serious charge Spain levels against him.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Friday that the question of any intervention by the government in Berlin “doesn’t arise.” She stressed that “the proceedings are in the judiciary’s hands.”

Demmer reiterated the German government’s position that the conflict over Catalonia’s future “must be resolved within the Spanish legal and constitutional order,” supporting the Spanish government’s stance.

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12:10 p.m.

German prosecutors say they have ordered the immediate release of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont after he posted 75,000 euros ($92,000) bail.

The Schleswig prosecutor’s office said Friday that Puigdemont also provided authorities with an address in Germany where he will reside pending a decision in his extradition case.

The 55-year-old was detained March 25 after crossing the border from Denmark. Spain is seeking his extradition for rebellion and misuse of public funds in organizing an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.

The state court in Schleswig ruled Thursday that Puigdemont can’t be extradited for rebellion because the equivalent German law presumes the use or threat of force sufficient to bend the will of authorities. He can still be extradited on misuse of funds charges.

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11:15 a.m.

Lawyers for Carles Puigdemont have arrived at the German prison where the former Catalan leader has been held for the past two weeks.

Puigdemont is expected to be released on bail Friday pending extradition proceedings, once he posts a 75,000-euro ($92,000) payment.

The 55-year-old was detained March 25 after crossing the border from Denmark. Spain had issued a European arrest warrant seeking his arrest and extradition.

Madrid accuses Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse of public funds in organizing an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.

The state court in Schleswig ruled Thursday that Puigdemont can’t be extradited for rebellion because the equivalent German law presumes the use or threat of force sufficient to bend the will of authorities. He can still be extradited on misuse of funds charges.

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