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Puigdemont will stay in Germany until judicial process is over

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Puigdemont will stay in Germany until judicial process is over

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REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
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Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont repeated his call for the release of political prisoners in Spain during his first press conference since a German court released him on bail on Friday. Asked about his future plans, he said that he will remain in Berlin until the end of the judicial process, and then hopes to return to Belgium.

Puigdemont said he had not anticipated being arrested in Germany despite Spain having issued a European arrest warrant, but said he accepts the risks that travelling held for him. He called it his "duty" to travel around Europe to "explain what is happening in Catalonia and in Spain".

He also urged the Spanish government to accept dialogue as a way out of the current crisis and accept the legitimacy of Jordi Sanchez — who remains in prison — as a candidate for the presidency of Catalonia.

The independent leader does not plan to meet any German politicians during his stay for now, he said during a Q&A with journalists, saying he is putting his energy into continuing his fight for Catalonia's self-determination.

He also urged the Spanish government to accept dialogue as a way out of the current conflict and accept the legitimacy of imprisoned pro-independence activist Jordi Sanchez as the nominee for the presidency of Catalonia.

Puigdemont added that the Spanish government needs to acknowledge that Catalan sovereignty is a reality. But when asked whether independence was the only option, he said it was not.

"I always said it was our proposal but we agree to work with the Spanish authorities [if they] have a project for Catalonia. But more of the same doesn't work," he said.

Puigdemont was freed after 10 days in prison on Friday after a court in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein granted bail set at €75,000.

The court on Thursday rejected an extradition request on the charge of rebellion for Puigdemont's role in Catalonia's independence campaign but said extradition to Spain was still possible on a charge of misuse of public funds.

The former Catalan leader was arrested last month as he entered Germany.