A GERMAN court has ruled that sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will not face extradition to Spain to face a charge of rebellion, which is not recognised in Germany.

However, a spokesperson at the Schleswig-Holstein state court said yesterday he could be extradited on embezzlement charges over allegations that he misused public funds: “The court decided this morning that an extradition due to the accusation of misuse of public funds is permissible.”

This was a rejection of the state prosecutor’s argument that the Spanish charge of rebellion could be equated with the German charge of “high treason”.

Puigdemont’s defence team immediately said it would take his case to the Germany’s Constitutional Court.

Rebellion is punishable by a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, the lesser charge carries up to 12 years.

Puigdemont fled Spain to avoid jail after last October’s Catalan independence referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence, and is now domiciled in Hamburg from where he has been fighting extradition.

The German court said he could remain at liberty.

In a short statement, Puigdemont’s press spokesman Joan Maria Pique, said that without the rebellion charge the “main Spanish accusation falls”.

“Catalan political prisoners should be freed now,” he said. “He remains free.

“And there are options to rebut the embezzlement.”

The court said state prosecutors would have to decide on whether to approve Spain’s extradition request, but it was not clear when that decision might be made.

Catalonia’s current president, Quim Torra, who was returning to Barcelona after meeting Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh, said the dropping of rebellion charges was “wonderful news”.

He tweeted: “This demonstrates once again the mistakes and lies behind a legal case which should never have been opened. We will win in Europe.”

Puigdemont responded on Twitter: “We’ve struck down the main lie upheld by the state. The German judiciary denies that the October 1 referendum was rebellion. Every minute that our colleagues spend in prison is a minute of shame and injustice. We’ll fight until the end, and we will win!”

Elsa Artadi, the Catalan government spokesperson, said Puigdemont’s defence team would appeal against the ruling.

Of the allegation that he misused public funds for the referendum, she said: “We will continue fighting, because it’s clear that it didn’t exist.”

Puigdemont’s German defence team, led by lawyer Wolfgang Schomburg, said that Germany “does not want to play any part in the criminalisation of a democratic behaviour”, and that he was being pursued in court “only for having carried out a democratic referendum”.

The decision will be another setback for Pablo Llarena, the Spanish supreme court judge and the independence movement’s bête noir.

He has already seen extradition defeats in Belgium over Puigdemont’s colleagues Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig and in Switzerland, while St Andrews University Professor Clara Ponsati – who was briefly Catalan education minister – is challenging her extradition in Scotland.