Spain High Court jails Catalan separatist leaders pending investigation

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MADRID/BARCELONA (Reuters) – Spain moved closer on Monday to imposing central rule over Catalonia to thwart its independence push as Madrid’s High Court signaled a hardening line by jailing the leaders of two of the largest separatist organizations.

By: Julien Toyer, Angus Berwick, Sam Edwards / Source: Reuters / The Dawn News / October 16, 2017

Jordi Cuixart, president of the Catalan Omnium Cultural organization, left, and Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly wave to supporters on arrival at the national court in Madrid, Spain, in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Photo credit: Washington Post

In the first imprisonment of senior secessionist figures since Catalonia’s Oct. 1 independence referendum, the court ordered the heads of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium held without bail pending an investigation for alleged sedition.

Prosecutors say that the ANC’s Jordi Sanchez and Omnium’s Jordi Cuixart played central roles in orchestrating pro-independence protests that last month trapped national police inside a Barcelona building and destroyed their vehicles.

Around 200 people flocked to the Catalan government’s headquarters in Barcelona in a peaceful show of support for both men, with some chanting “Freedom” and waving “Democracy” banners.

The ANC, which has organized protests of hundreds of thousands of secessionists in the past, called for further peaceful demonstrations around Catalonia on Tuesday.

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont commented on Twitter: “Spain jails Catalonia’s civil society leaders for organizing peaceful demonstrations. Sadly, we have political prisoners again” — an allusion to Spain’s military dictatorship under Francisco Franco.

The High Court also banned the Catalan police chief, Josep Lluis Trapero, from leaving Spain and seized his passport while he is being investigated over the same incident, though it did not order his arrest.

Last Tuesday, Puigdemont stepped back from asking the Catalan parliament to vote on independence, instead making a symbolic declaration and calling for negotiations on the region’s future.

In a confrontation viewed with mounting alarm in European capitals and financial markets, Puigdemont failed on Monday to respond to Madrid’s ultimatum to clarify whether he had declared unilateral independence in a speech last week.

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