A German public prosecutor has applied for an extradition warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, now in detention in Germany, starting the process of returning him to Spain to face charges of rebellion.
The prosecutors in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein applied for the extradition of Puigdemont after "extensive examination" of the European arrest warrant issued by Spain against him and five other fugitive separatist leaders.
Puigdemont was arrested by German police on March 25 as he was travelling from Finland back to Belgium, where he has been living in self-imposed exile since Catalonia's failed independence bid last October.
Prosecutors concluded that Spain's extradition request was valid because accusations of rebellion included carrying out an anti-constitutional referendum. It must make a decision within 60 days, although it may ask for an extra 30 days if necessary.
Central to the execution of EAWs is whether the charges they contain have an equivalent under local law, and Schleswig prosecutors said the charge of rebellion had a German equivalent - high treason. Puigdemont will remain in custody until a ruling is returned.
The superior regional court confirmed it had received the prosecutors' request, adding that it was "undetermined when a decision on the application can be expected".
Puigdemont's German attorneys, Wolfgang Schomburg and Soeren Schomburg, said they filed a motion for the court to dismiss the extradition request on the grounds the Catalan independence referendum didn't qualify as "rebellion".
Prosecutors also said it was reasonable for him to be charged with misuse of public funds since the independence referendum cost more than €1.5 million (£1.3m).
"We are countries that deeply respect the rule of law. and the separation of powers", he said. Puigdemont's lawyers have urged the German government to intervene, citing the "political dimension" of the case.
Puigdemont's lawyer Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas said his client's fate now rested with the courts.
The Spanish government is now trying 25 Catalan nationalist leaders who were involved in the October 2017 secessionist vote. Worldwide arrest warrants are active against four other politicians who fled overseas past year, including Clara Ponsati, a former Catalan education minister who is fighting extradition from her home in Scotland.