A German court ruled on Thursday that former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont could be extradited to Spain for alleged misuse of public funds, but it rejected a request to send him back to answer a more serious charge of rebellion.
While separatists had hoped Mr. Puigdemont could avoid extradition altogether, Thursday's decision is likely to invigorate Catalonia's pro-independence forces.
A German state prosecutor says it will decide soon an extradition charge after the court deemed such action was permissible.
"He was not a "spiritual leader" of violence", the court said in a statement.
The court has not made a decision to impose any precautionary measures on Puigdemont, meaning that he remains a free man. "German justice denies that the October 1 referendum was rebellion", Puigdemont tweeted following the court decision.
Puigdemont has been on bail since April, after a court ruled he could not be extradited for rebellion, as that was not actionable under German law.
"However, in authorising Mr Puigdemont's extradition for the offence of misuse of public funds, it seems that the German court rejected, or was unable to consider, whether extradition should be refused on the basis that the prosecution was politically motivated". The laws of most countries do not criminalise rebellion, with the result that there is no "dual criminality" between Spain and Germany.
"Every minute that our companions spend in prison is a minute of shame and injustice".
After an initial ruling that Puigdemont could not be extradited for rebellion because the comparable German treason charge requires the defendant to have committed violence, prosecutors in May said they had received new video evidence showing violence against Spanish police which they claimed made extradition on the charge possible.
Catalonia's current separatist President Quim Torra, who is close to Puigdemont, tweeted that "once more the machinations and lies of a judicial case that never should have started have come to light". Before he closed this part of the proceedings, he ordered Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, and the four other politicians who are being held in pre-trial custody (Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez) to be suspended from their roles as deputies in the Catalan parliament. "We will win in Europe", Torra tweeted.