Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Advisors

Catalan Protesters Demand Release of Jailed Separatist Advisors

The slogan for the day was "For rights and freedoms, for democracy and cohesion, we want you home!" and this was welcomed by Mr Puigdemont and many of his supporters believe that this demonstration put paid to the idea that the call for independence was losing steam.

ACCORDING to police figures 315,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona today (Sunday) to demand the release of the Catalan leaders now in prison in Spain.

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.

The Guardia Urbana, a Catalan municipal police force, said 315,000 people turned out.

The demonstration was organised 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.

Around 350,000 demonstrators clogged several main city arteries waving flags and wearing yellow in support of separatist leaders jailed for their role in the region's banned drive to split from Spain previous year.


The latest opinion poll published by the Catalan government in February said that support for independence had decreased to 40 per cent from near 49 per cent in October.

The rally was organized by the Catalan pro-independence groups and trade unions.

"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. "It is time to build bridges and the Catalan problem can not be solved through the courts but by dialogue and politics".

On October 1, Catalonia held an independence referendum, during which the vast majority of voters backed the region's secession from Spain.

Supreme court judge Pablo Llarena refused last week to release him from jail and he faces up to 25 years on charges of rebellion, marking the latest of four unsuccessful attempts to elect a new leader.

Lawmakers defied court orders and held that a referendum on autonomy. Protesters came out on the streets in opposition to the pre-trial detention of independence leaders. The poll surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

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