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BELGIUM

Puigdemont to return to Belgium from Germany

Catalonia's deposed president Carles Puigdemont, who has been in Germany for four months, said Wednesday he will return to Belgium after a Spanish judge dropped a European arrest warrant for him.

Puigdemont to return to Belgium from Germany
Puigdemont at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

“This weekend I will return to Belgium,” the separatist leader told a news conference in Berlin, adding his “political activity will be based in Belgium”.

Sacked as Catalan president after a failed secession bid on October 27th, Puigdemont fled to Brussels several days later as did several members of his executive who had also been deposed.

There, he settled in Waterloo before being arrested in Germany at the end of March on his return from a trip to Finland.

Puigdemont was freed on bail around 10 days later and set about waiting for a German court decision on an extradition request by Spain, where he is wanted over his role in the independence drive.

But on Thursday, Spain's Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case against separatist leaders, dropped the international arrest warrant.

From Belgium, Puigdemont will be able to travel where he wants, save Spain where he is still wanted for rebellion, which carries up to 25 years in jail, and misuse of public funds.

In theory, he could remain in self-exile for 20 years, which in Spain's legal system is the time limit after which the rebellion charge is no longer valid.

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EUROPE

Germany making disputed Nazi war payments to over 2,000 people

Germany is still making payments to more than 2,000 people worldwide under a law that provides for "war victims", including those who collaborated with the World War II Nazi regime.

Germany making disputed Nazi war payments to over 2,000 people
Hitler in the Reichstag on May 4th, 1941. Photo: Deutsches Bundesarchiv/WikiCommons

Official data from the Labour Ministry showed that 2,033 people benefited from such payments in February.

Under the definition of the law, beneficiaries include individuals who suffered health problems from military or related service or internment because of their German citizenship or ethnicity during World War II.

SEE ALSO: Lawmakers call for end of pension payments to Nazi collaborators

Most of the beneficiaries live in Europe, with the highest number in Poland, where 573 are still receiving payments.

Other European countries with significant numbers of beneficiaries include Austria with 101, Slovenia with 184 and Croatia with 71.

In the Americas, 250 beneficiaries live in the US while 121 are in Canada.

Such payments came under scrutiny after Belgian lawmakers demanded that they be withdrawn for a handful of residents there.

Paying pensions for “collaboration in one of the most murderous regimes in history is in contradiction with collective remembrance” and against the values of the European Union, said the lawmakers, in a legislative text adopted on Tuesday.

To qualify for the payment, the individual must be able to prove an injury arising from WWII. He or she must not have been convicted for war crimes.

The law first came into force in 1950. But after it emerged that some former Waffen SS troops were also drawing benefits, an amendment was passed in 1998 blocking individuals who have commited crimes against humanity from receiving it.

Since 2008, however, individual German states which are responsible for making the payments are allowed to withdraw them.

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