Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Leaders

Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Leaders

Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Leaders

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona on Sunday to protest the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders facing trial on "rebellion" charges.

Many chanted "freedom for the political prisoners" as they marched along Parallel Avenue, one of the city's main streets, many waving the red and yellow Catalan flag.

Alex de Ferrer, a 50-year-old IT specialist, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that he had chose to join the protest as jailing separatist leaders "only serves to manufacture separatists". "But we will continue to protest peacefully". The Barcelona police said some 300,000 people participated in the protest.

The protest was backed by the Catalan branches of Spain's two largest trade unions, the CCOO and the UGT.

"The majority of Catalans, regardless of their political position, agree that pre-trial jail is not justified", said Camil Ros.

"But it is not a separatist protest".

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.

Separatist lawmakers defied court orders and held an ad-hoc referendum on independence in October.

The first two jailed were Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who wield influence through their pro-independence civic organizations.

Puigdemont is also accused of misuse of public funds for staging an independence referendum in Catalonia on October 1 despite it having been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. Leaders from both groups were jailed following the referendum. The plebiscite was not recognized by Madrid, which subsequently imposed direct rule over the autonomous region and dismissed its government.

While conceding that the arrests of prominent Catalan leaders on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds had left the independence movement "decapitated", he said the setback was only temporary.

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