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Ex-Catalan leader Puigdemont set to return to Belgium

Spain withdrew a European arrest warrant for Mr Puigdemont last week.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has said he will return to Belgium on Saturday, following Spain’s decision to withdraw a European warrant that prompted German authorities to arrest him in March.

The separatist leader spoke to reporters in Berlin, a week after a court in northern Germany said Spain’s decision meant he was now free to leave the country.

Spain had sought Mr Puigdemont’s extradition on rebellion charges for promoting independence for Catalonia.

But the German court ruled he could only be sent back to face a lesser charge of embezzlement connected to the alleged misuse of public funds for holding a referendum on Catalan secession which a judge had outlawed.

An earlier Spanish attempt to extradite Mr Puigdemont from Belgium failed.

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An earlier attempt to extradite Mr Puigdemont from Belgium also failed (AP)

Mr Puigdemont fled to Belgium last year after his regional government held an unauthorised referendum on independence from Spain.

Spanish authorities took over the Catalan government for several months after a subsequent declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament received no international recognition.

Mr Puigdemont said he will pick up where he left off in March, continuing his work to fulfil “the people’s mandate” and support fellow separatists who are imprisoned in Spain.

Earlier this month, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan president Quim Torra – a fervent nationalist who is Mr Puigdemont’s hand-picked successor – agreed to open talks over Catalonia’s future.

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Mr Puigdemont said he intends to ‘pick up where he left off in March ( AP)

Mr Sanchez took office last month after securing a narrow parliamentary majority, with support from Catalan separatists and others, to oust predecessor Mariano Rajoy – a hardliner on Catalonia.

Mr Puigdemont said: “Clearly the change of Spanish government has meant a change of style, climate and language.

“But it is time for facts and not gestures,” he added.

“We have shown that we are prepared … for dialogue, but we have to address the essential part of this dialogue: the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.”

Mr Puigdemont insisted that the matter “is no longer a Spanish domestic affair”.

He acknowledged that Catalan separatists have no support from European governments, but insisted that “we have plenty of support from European citizens”.

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