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Former Catalan leader returns to Belgium after extradition bid fails

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By Pascale Davies
Former Catalan leader returns to Belgium after extradition bid fails
Copyright  Reuters

Ex Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has returned to Belgium from Germany after Spain dropped an international arrest warrant for charges of rebellion over an illegal declaration of independence. 

“This will not be my last stop, this is not the end of my journey,” he told a press conference in Brussels. 

Puigdemont said he would travel around Europe to raise support for Catalan independence. “I will travel around Europe to the four corners of the continent to defend our cause,” he said. 

REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Carles Puigdemont and Catalan politician Antoni ComínREUTERS/Eric Vidal

The former Catalan leader fled to Belgium in October after Madrid imposed direct rule on the region following a declaration independence.

Puigdemont was arrested in March at a petrol station in northern Germany while returning to Belgium after a journey to Finland.

A German court ruled earlier this month that Puigdemont could not be extradited on charges of rebellion, but could for misuse of public funds.

The Spanish supreme court then lifted the proposal altogether. 

But Puigdemont will probably not return to Spain anytime soon, as the charges against Puigdemont and the five others remain in place, meaning they would be arrested if they went back to Spain. 

Relations between Madrid and Catalonia have thawed in recent weeks, as Spain's recently appointed Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held talks with Catalonia's pro-independence leader Quim Torra. 

But a defiant Puigdemont said on Saturday Sanchez’s period of grace regarding the Catalan issue was over and it was a time for action, not words.