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INDEPENDENCE

German court again refuses to jail Puigdemont

A German court on Tuesday rejected a second request from prosecutors to put deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont behind bars pending a decision on his extradition to Spain.

German court again refuses to jail Puigdemont
Puigdemont at a press conference in Berlin. Photo: AFP

Prosecutors had re-applied for his detention on May 9th after receiving “new information” from Madrid suggesting there was a greater risk that he may try to flee Germany.

But the court in Schleswig-Holstein said it “did not see an increased risk of flight for Carles Puigdemont”, ruling therefore that he should remain free on bail while his extradition request is pending.

Puigdemont was detained in northern Germany late March after Spain issued a European arrest warrant against him for his role in Catalonia's failed bid to break from Spain last October.

He had been living in self-exile in Belgium since then but was travelling through Germany when he was arrested.   

Madrid wants Puigdemont to return to Spain so he can face trial for alleged rebellion, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years.   

But the Schleswig-Holstein court released Puigdemont on bail on April 6th after finding that he could not be extradited for rebellion. It has yet to rule on whether to send him to Spain to face another, lesser charge of misuse of public funds.

Prosecutors on Tuesday said the information they received from Spanish authorities included videos that showed “acts of violence against Spanish police” by pro-independence demonstrators, which they said could be used to justify the rebellion charge.

Rebellion is not punishable under German law and German judges earlier ruled that the closest legal equivalent, high treason, did not apply because Puigdemont's actions were not accompanied by violence.

The prosecutors' statement added that they were preparing a formal application asking the court to allow Puigdemont's extradition.   

According to his release conditions, Puigdemont may not leave Germany and must report to police weekly as he awaits a decision on his extradition.   

With his legal woes preventing him from being re-appointed president of Catalonia, Puigdemont earlier this month anointed a handpicked successor, bringing the region a step closer to ending the political impasse.

READ MORE: New Catalan leader shuns King and Constitution at swearing-in ceremony

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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