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The European Union’s General Court rejected an appeal by Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont to maintain his immunity as a lawmaker of the European Parliament, a ruling that could pave the way for his extradition to Spain to face trial, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Puigdemont and other Catalan politicians are wanted in Spain over their involvement in the failed independence bid for the Spanish region of Catalonia in 2017. Puigdemont fled Spain that year and has since been living in exile in Belgium as a lawmaker of the European Parliament.

Previous attempts by Spanish authorities to extradite him on charges of sedition have failed.

But in 2021, Parliament voted to strip Puigdemont and two other self-exiled Catalan politicians of their immunity.

In its Wednesday ruling, the General Court sided with the Parliament, saying the latter “cannot adopt decisions to defend immunity which produce binding legal effects with regard to the Spanish judicial authorities.”

Puigdemont and others plan to appeal the verdict to the Court of Justice.

While the court’s decision could facilitate his extradition to Spain, Puigdemont will only face lesser charges of disobedience and embezzlement that carry jail terms of up to eight years.

In January, Spain’s Supreme Court dropped sedition charges against him following a reform of the country’s criminal code. Sedition charges carried a maximum jail term of 15 years.

Even so, Wednesday’s decision could stoke tensions in Spain ahead of a general election, Bloomberg wrote.

Observers noted that opposition parties could use the verdict to attack Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who has been accused of siding with Catalan parties behind the secession attempt that almost tore the country apart.

Sanchez has relied on a Catalan party and pro-independence Basque groups to pass key legislation in Spain’s heavily-fractured parliament.

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