Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Leaders

Nellie Chapman
April 16, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona on Sunday to protest against the detention of nine Catalan separatists to be tried for "rebellion".

Alex de Ferrer, a 50-year-old IT specialist, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that he had made a decision to join the protest as jailing separatist leaders "only serves to manufacture separatists". "But we will continue to protest peacefully".

Like thousands of others at the march, she wore a yellow ribbon to show solidarity with the jailed leaders, whom Catalan separatists consider to be "political prisoners".

Police put attendance at 315,000 while the organisers said 750,000 people had turned out to take part in the protest, with the city's streets once again filled with people dressed in yellow clutching pro-independence estelada flags.

The demonstration was organized by two pro-independence groups, the National Catalan Assembly and Omnium Cultural.

"There have been tensions (among unions members) just like in the rest of the Catalan society", the secretary general of the Catalan branch of UGT, Camil Ros, told AFP Saturday on the eve of the march.

"But it is not a separatist protest".

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Spanish justice authorities accuse the Catalan politicians of incitement to mutiny, and their leader Carles Pokdemon at home waiting for the court and probably a life sentence for the coup attempt in the country.

Many protesters chanted "Puigdemont, president!" Spanish and German prosecutors met last week at the headquarters of Eurojust in The Hague.

Lawmakers defied court orders and held that a referendum on autonomy.

Also leaders of the coalition of left Catalonia in Comú-Podem came together; they are opposed to independence but in favor of Catalans' right to decide. Leaders from both groups were jailed following the referendum.

Fresh regional elections will be triggered if a new leader is not elected by May 22.

Spain's central government imposed direct rule on Catalonia following its unilateral declaration of independence in October.

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