Catalonia: Spanish judge jails two independence leaders for possible sedition

Alasdair Fotheringham
Monday 16 October 2017 22:18 BST
Jordi Cuixart (L), leader of Omnium Cultural, and Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly, arrive at the High Court in Madrid on 16 October
Jordi Cuixart (L), leader of Omnium Cultural, and Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly, arrive at the High Court in Madrid on 16 October (REUTERS)

A Spanish judge has ruled that the leaders of the two biggest grassroots pro-independence associations in Catalonia should remain in prison without bail on possible charges of sedition - for which, if convicted, they could face prison sentences of up to 10 years.

An ongoing legal investigation claims Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the leader of the ANC movement, and Mr Cuixart, who heads the Omnium Cultural association, were heavily involved in organising a massive protest aimed at hindering a Guardia Civil investigation in Barcelona into the build-up for the 1 October illegal referendum.

Members of the Guardia Civil were trapped in Catalan government offices on 20 September as a result of thousands of protestors encircling the building, in what has been described as a “siege” and during which three police vehicles were destroyed.

Both Mr Cuixart and Mr Sanchez, who are now set to spend the night in a prison near Madrid, earlier refused to answer questions from the judge overseeing the investigation. Summoned to court twice on Monday, on entering they gave clenched fists victory salutes to a small group of supporters.

The chief of the Catalan police, Josep Lluis Trapero, was also questioned in the same courtroom on Monday for a second time in ten days, on possible charges of sedition over the regional police force’s allegedly overly passive role during the build-up to the 1 October referendum. Mr Trapero, who prosecutors had also asked to be detained, was finally released without bail, although his passport was confiscated.

The imprisonment of two of their best-known local leaders has provoked outrage amongst the separatist movement, further raising tension on an already exceptionally fraught day in Spain’s prolonged political crisis in Catalonia.

Early on Monday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had refused to clarify if he had made a unilateral declaration of independence last week, which, coupled with Madrid’s renewed threats of direct government intervention, further deepened the increasingly bitter standoff between Catalonia and Spain.

Caceloradas - the banging of pots and pans in protest - were reported in Barcelona shortly after news of the incarceration of the “two Jordis,” as Mr Sanchez and Mr Cuixart are popularly known.

Later Mr Puigdemont argued on his Twitter account that “they can incarcerate ideas, but that strengthens the need for freedom. It’s very bad news.”

Amongst the pro-unity parties, the imprisonments have produced mixed reactions with the head of the Catalan Socialist Party, Miquel Iceta, saying it was “excessive” although other political groupings argued it was right to “uphold the law.” Meanwhile the ANC has announced two major demonstrations against their leader’s incarceration will take place in Barcelona on Tuesday.

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