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A German court on Thursday removed a hurdle to the extradition of a prominent Catalan politician on charges of embezzlement, setting the stage for a possible trial in Spain but on lesser charges than prosecutors there had hoped for.

In its decision in the case of Carles Puigdemont, the Schleswig-Holstein state court said the former Catalan leader could be extradited on embezzlement charges, but not rebellion.

The charge of rebellion is not recognized in Germany and the court said related German statutes such as that against treason did not apply, because his actions "did not rise to this kind of violence."

The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government's unauthorized referendum last year on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.

The Spanish government rejects Catalan independence. Puigdemont hailed the decision as a victory, tweeting "we have defeated the central lie of the (Spanish) state. German justice denies that the referendum of October 1 was rebellion."

The decision means that if he is extradited, Puigdemont can only stand trial in Spain on embezzlement charges over allegations he misused public funds, court spokeswoman Christine von Milczewski said.

Rebellion carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while misuse of public funds carries up to 12 years.


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