Puigdemont urges Spain to open negotiations over Catalonia

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Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his government respects the decision of a German court to refuse to extradite the fugitive former leader of Catalonia on rebellion charges.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has made a renewed call for Spanish authorities to open negotiations over the region's secession bid.

A smiling Puigdemont emerged into the sunshine from the prison in Neumuenster, where he has been held for almost two weeks, thanking staff "for their professionality and for their respect" and the inmates for "their solidarity and help for me to adapt quickly to the situation".

"I call for the immediate release for all of my colleagues still in Spanish prisons", he said, speaking in English.

"This opens a new opportunity of dialogue". "Spanish authorities understand that political measures are needed", Puigdemont said at a press conference in Berlin.

"My duty is to remain here in Germany until the end of the judicial process here ... It is my residence now until the end of this process", he said. The Spanish government accuses him of "rebellion" and misuse of public funds for organizing an illegal independence referendum in Catalonia in October.

German authorities are still considering whether to extradite Puigdemont to Spain after he was arrested on March 25 on an arrest warrant issued by Madrid while traveling through Germany.

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Katarina Barley told daily Sueddeutsche on Saturday the judges' decision was "absolutely right" and what she'd expected.

He says the Spanish government "met its obligations" by imposing direct rule on Catalonia after Puigdemont and other separatists organized the independence referendum previous year.

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 a year ago.

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.

On Thursday, a German court ruled that he could not be extradited on grounds of rebellion, as the equivalent charge under German law, treason, requires a defendant to have committed violence.

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

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said that he meant to stay in Berlin until court proceedings on his case were finalized while expressing hope to return to Brussels afterward.

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