Thousands demand release of jailed Catalan separatists

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More than 200,000 people took to the streets in Barcelona, demanding the release of two men they consider political prisoners after they were arrested earlier this week on charges of sedition.

Chanting “Freedom for Sanchez and Cuixart!” protesters called for the release of Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural and Jordi Sanchez of the National Catalan Assembly (ANC) who were imprisoned without bail in Madrid on Monday, pending a trial on charges of sedition in relation to their separatist organising efforts.

The rally started earlier on Tuesday as CDRs and other groups marched towards the Spanish delegation in Barcelona, meeting along the way.

Their number seemed to grow with each block.

The Catalan national movement is unique in that it has support from the political left to right, Folch explained, adding that he believes the movement is growing.
Though the demonstration blocked traffic, drivers honked in support.

By the time the CDRs and other groups reached the Spanish delegation, their numbers reached at least 200,000.

Demonstrators lit candles and held a five-minute moment of silence for Cuixart and Sanchez before a protester screamed “Freedom!” to which the 200k-strong crowd responded in kind.

The crowd was diverse. Some wore suits, while others were in torn jeans. The young helped the elderly light candles in the dark.

Shortly after the procession arrived, a police helicopter began flying overhead. With each pass, protesters held up their candles and screamed.

The imprisonment of the two separatist leaders was warmly received by figures in the ruling right-wing Popular Party (PP).
Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala said the Catalan leaders’ imprisonment represented the “normal functioning of Spanish justice”, adding, “we can talk about prison policy, but not political prisoners”.

Xavier Garcia Albiol, leader of Catalonia’s PP, applauded the decision to imprison Cuixart and Sanchez.
The Spanish constitutional court ruled the October 1 Catalan referendum unlawful, with Madrid ordering police to stop the poll while respecting voters.

But Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard, a military body tasked with law enforcement, used “excessive force” to stop the vote, according to rights groups.
Catalans voted to secede from Spain, but turnout was reportedly lower than 50 percent.

On October 10, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont declared an independent Catalan state and then suspended the effects of the declaration. He says his intent was to foster dialogue with Madrid.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then gave him until Monday morning to clarify whether or not independence was declared., warning that he would enact Article 155.

Source:  News agencies