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Ex-Catalonia leader can be extradited, but not on the charge Spain wants

MADRID — A German court ruled Thursday that Catalonia’s former leader, Carles Puigdemont, can be extradited to Spain, but only on fraud charges and not for rebellion, the main charge he faced in Spain after Catalonia’s botched declaration of independence in 2017.

The decision is a setback for the Spanish judiciary, which had hoped the German court would allow Puigdemont to stand trial on a rebellion charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.

Under the lesser charge of corruption related to the misuse of public money, Puigdemont could still be sentenced to up to two years in prison, but such financial crime sentences are normally suspended in Spain for first-time offenders.

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Puigdemont is accused of misusing public money to organize an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1, when he was president of the restive region. Two dozen other Catalan politicians are also facing trial; some are being held in prison, while a handful of others are fighting extradition.

The German court’s decision is the latest twist in a complicated legal battle that gained an international dimension in October, when Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain, alongside some other members of his former Cabinet.

They left shortly after Madrid used emergency constitutional powers to oust Puigdemont’s administration and place Catalonia under direct rule. In March, while traveling by car from Finland to Belgium, Puigdemont was arrested by German police on an international arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge.

NEW YORK TIMES