Huge rally in Barcelona de­mands free­dom for jailed sep­a­ratists

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - JOSEPH WIL­SON

BARCELONA, SPAIN — Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Cata­lan sep­a­ratists ral­lied in down­town Barcelona on Sun­day to de­mand the re­lease of high-pro­file se­ces­sion­ist lead­ers be­ing held in pre­trial de­ten­tion.

Pro­test­ers waved Cata­lan sep­a­ratist flags be­hind a huge ban­ner that read “for rights and lib­er­ties, for democ­racy and unity, we want them back home!”

The demon­stra­tion was or­ga­nized by two pro-in­de­pen­dence grass­roots groups, the Na­tional Cata­lan Assem­bly and Om­nium, whose pres­i­dents are among the nine sep­a­ratists in prison await­ing trial for their roles in last year’s failed break­away bid by the north­east­ern Span­ish re­gion.

The re­gional chap­ters of Spain’s two lead­ing labour unions, along with other civil so­ci­ety groups, sup­ported the protest de­spite the com­plaints from some mem­bers who don’t want se­ces­sion for Cat­alo­nia. Barcelona po­lice said 315,000 people par­tic­i­pated in the protest.

“The ma­jor­ity of Cata­lans, re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion, agree that pre­trial jail is not jus­ti­fied,” said re­gional UGT union leader Camil Ros. “What we, as labour unions, are ask­ing for now is di­a­logue.”

The se­ces­sion move­ment in the wealthy re­gion has plunged Spain into its deep­est in­sti­tu­tional cri­sis in decades.

Sep­a­ratist law­mak­ers de­fied court or­ders and held an ad hoc ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence in Oc­to­ber. Their sub­se­quent dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence led to a crack­down by Span­ish author­i­ties act­ing to de­fend the Span­ish Con­sti­tu­tion, which de­clares the nation “in­di­vis­i­ble.”

MANU FER­NAN­DEZ THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A girl with her face painted with the in­de­pen­dence flag takes part in a protest in sup­port of Cat­alo­nian politi­cians who have been jailed on charges of sedi­tion.

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