Catalan ex-head Puigdemont to appear in German court after protests flare

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was due to appear in a German court on Monday as Spain sought to extradite him over the region’s independence fight after a night of protests there in which dozens of people were hurt in clashes with police.

Puigdemont was detained in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein on Sunday, five months after going into self-imposed exile from Spain, where he faces charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement which could lead to 25 years in prison.

Puigdemont had entered Germany from Denmark after on Friday leaving Finland, where he had attended a conference.

A demonstration in Barcelona against his arrest by tens of thousands of Catalans tipped over into clashes on Sunday night.

Outside the central government offices in the Catalan capital, riot police beat flag-waving protesters back with batons, leaving several with blood streaming down their foreheads. Three protesters were arrested and 50 suffered minor injuries, police said.

Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that 25 Catalan leaders, including Puigdemont, would be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state relating a referendum held in Catalonia last October which called for the wealthy northeastern region to separate from Spain.

The Madrid government deemed the referendum, which was widely boycotted by opponents of independence, illegal and took over direct rule of Catalonia following a symbolic declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament.

The court has also reactivated international arrest warrants for four other politicians who went into self-imposed exile last year. Puigdemont and fellow separatists have all denied any wrongdoing.

It ordered five separatist leaders, including the latest candidate to become regional president, Jordi Turull, to be jailed pending their trial.

The Madrid government’s forceful legal moves deal a potentially fatal blow to the independence movement and signal an end to one of the country’s worst political crises since the return of democracy four decades ago, although separatist sympathies are likely to simmer.

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