Puigdemont Pledges European Campaign Following Release From Jail

(Bloomberg) -- Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont will embark on a European campaign to promote independence after being freed from jail by a German court despite an extradition request from Spain.

Puigdemont said he has no plans to return to Spanish soil, where he faces arrest, and insisted the Catalan conflict requires international mediation. He’ll remain on bail in Berlin until a German judge makes a final decision on his extradition.

Puigdemont Pledges European Campaign Following Release From Jail

“My duty is to explain before Europe the political situation in Catalonia,” he told reporters on Saturday. “If both sides aren’t able to engage in dialogue, I think it’d be necessary for another country or an international organization to offer a space.”

Puigdemont’s camp was reinvigorated Thursday after the German court declined to consider a Spanish judge’s request to have him extradited on rebellion charges. The ruling saps authority from Madrid’s legal argument and leaves Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy casting around for votes in the national parliament, setting back his efforts to finally pass a 2018 budget.

Speaking from Seville where the governing People’s Party is holding a national convention this weekend, Rajoy said he respected the court’s decision but doubled down on his defense of the Spanish constitution. The premier said he hadn’t spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about Puigdemont.

Dastis Rebuke

Meanwhile, his foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, criticized comments from German Justice Minister Katarina Barley to newspaper Sueddeutsche, in which she argued the decision to drop rebellion charges was right. Dastis said the remarks were inappropriate and politicians should stay out of legal proceedings.

Puigdemont was arrested by German police March 25 as he entered the country from Denmark en route to Belgium, where he’s been based since making an illegal declaration of independence from Spain last year. The German court argued it couldn’t extradite him on charges of high treason -- the rough equivalent of Spain’s rebellion charges -- since the use of violence wasn’t such to endanger the state.

Separately, the president of the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent, said Saturday he would back pro-independence activist Jordi Sanchez -- currently in prison in Madrid -- to become the next regional president in an effort to avert an election.

Sanchez was proposed earlier this year but had to pull his candidacy after a judge in Madrid ruled he couldn’t leave prison. Sanchez is also supported by Puigdemont, who said courts were trying to block separatists from forming a majority.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.