LATEST: Italian court frees ex-leader Carles Puigdemont but orders him to stay in Sardinia while Spain’s extradition request is considered

AN Italian court has ordered the exiled regional leader of Catalunya to be freed a day after his arrest in Sardinia, his lawyer said.

Carles Puigdemont was ordered to remain on the Italian island while an extradition request from Spain was considered.

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after an arrest warrant for sedition was issued following a failed breakaway bid in the region in 2017.

Agostinangelo Marras, lawyer for Mr Puigdemont, confirmed to reporters outside the prison that he “could be released from today”.

Italian police were waiting for the former Catalan president at Alghero airport in Sardinia on Thursday evening and he was detained on arrival and taken to Sassari prison nearby.

He had travelled to Sardinia to attend a Catalan folklore festival, from Brussels, where he has been living since he fled Spain.

Earlier on Friday, Puigdemont who is now an MEP attended an extradition hearing where he said he did not want to be returned to Spain.

The 58-year-old was released by an Italian appeals court, while questions are resolved as to whether the European arrest warrant against him is valid.

It will also determine whether as an MEP, he currently enjoys immunity.

The the same court will have to decide whether to hand him over to the Spanish authorities, a process could take up to 60 days.

Judicial authorities said he must remain on the island during the process.

Earlier on Friday, Spain’s government said he must return to face justice.

“Mr. Puigdemont must submit to the action of the courts, exactly like any other citizen,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office said in a statement.

Meanwhile protests were held outside the Italian consulate in Barcelona calling for his release.

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