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Carles Puigdemont leaves custody in Italy as Sánchez urges him to 'submit to Spanish justice'

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By Euronews with AFP, AP
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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, leaves the jail of Sassari, in Sardinia, Italy, on Friday.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, leaves the jail of Sassari, in Sardinia, Italy, on Friday.   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has been released from custody in Sassari, Italy.

The MEP and former president of Spain's Catalonia region had been detained by border police upon arriving at the Alghero airport on Thursday evening, according to his chief of staff Josep Lluís Alay.

Speaking after his release, he said of his detention: “Very good, no problem. The police and prison guards were very professional, very serious people.”

Authorities said Puigdemont was free to travel without restrictions, as they scheduled a hearing to rule on his extradition for October 4.

However, any decision by the judges will ultimately have to be approved by the Italian justice minister Marta Cartabia.

Speaking on Friday on the island of La Palma, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez urged Puigdemont to "submit to Spanish justice".

The Socialist leader, who has made appeasement in Catalonia one of his priorities, also reiterated his call for "dialogue" with the region.

A suspended arrest warrant

Puigdemont, 58, fled Spain in late October 2017 after being charged for rebellion and secession over his role in an independence referendum held earlier that month that the Spanish government considered illegal. He is also charged with misusing public funds.

Gonzalo Boye, Puigdemont's lawyer, wrote on Twitter that he was detained over a 2019 European arrest warrant that has since been suspended.

Puigdemont had already been arrested by German police acting on a Spanish-issued European arrest warrant in 2018 but a local court rejected his extradition for rebellion and Spanish authorities dropped the warrant.

Another warrant was then issued in 2019 after Puigdemont secured a seat at the European Parliament but failed to attend the act of observance of the Spanish Constitution in Madrid which is required to be recognised as a Spanish MEP. However, the European Court of Justice later sided with the Catalonian politician, allowing him to take his seat in the European Parliament.

MEPs voted in March to strip Puigdemont and two associates of their parliamentary immunity.

They then lost an appeal to the European Court of Justice in July to have the immunity reinstated, with the court stating there was no reason they could not face trial in Spain.

Catalan leaders pardoned

Nine other Catalan leaders had received jail terms for their role in the 2017 secession bid.

The pro-independence leaders were recently pardoned by Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez after serving several years of their prison sentences.

Catalonia's current leader Pere Aragonès said that "persecution and judicial repression" had to stop.

"Amnesty is the only way. Self-determination, the only solution," Aragonès said, adding he was on Puigdemont's side.

Demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse in Sassari on Friday, shouting "Freedom, Freedom" and carrying signs in Sardinian dialect proclaiming, ”Democracy, the Sardinian nation supports the Catalan nation."