Germany praises bail decision for ex-Catalan leader

A protester wears a mask of ousted separatist president Carles Puigdemont during a demonstration in Barcelona

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said on Saturday he hoped to live in Belgium once legal proceedings are concluded in Germany, where he was released on bail on Friday, Reuters reported.Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont addresses a news conference in Berlin, Germany, April 7, 2018.

The German court's decision to release Puigdemont on bail is a setback for the Spanish judiciary's efforts to crack down on the separatist movement.

Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds to hold Catalonia's banned independence referendum past year.

Puigdemont was freed after a German court ruled out the charge of rebellion for which Spain issued an global arrest warrant, arguing they found no evidence of violence in Puigdemont actions.

"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. The court, however, has not ruled out extradition on the charge of "embezzlement".

"I hope the situation could help".

After the election, Catalan lawmakers declared unilateral independence from Spain. Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds.

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But Spain's Supreme Court said on Friday it was considering consulting the European Court of Justice on the ruling, without giving more details.

The Spanish Public Prosecutor's Office also said it's mulling to seek action in the ECJ to "protect and defend the European judicial order" regarding arrest warrants within the bloc.

She stated that if Spain couldn't prove the allegations of misuse of public funds, "afterward Puigdemont would be a free man in a absolutely free country - notably in Germany".

A German court is deciding whether Puigdemont should be extradited on the lesser charge of misuse of public funds to hold a banned referendum on independence for Catalonia previous year.

"We feel that comments on judges' decisions at this point are not appropriate", he told reporters in the southern Spanish city of Seville.

A demonstration was planned in the northern German town of Neumünster, where Puigdemont had been held since his detention, against his still-possible extradition.

Puigdemont's lawyer, Wolfgang Schomburg, said he was confident of convincing the court not to allow his client's extradition on the misuse of funds charges. Misuse of funds carries a sentence of up to eight years.

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