Jordi Cuixart, president of the Catalonian Omnium Cultural organisation and Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalonian National Assembly, wave to supporters on arrival at the national court in Madrid.
Jordi Cuixart, president of the Catalonian Omnium Cultural organisation and Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalonian National Assembly, wave to supporters on arrival at the national court in Madrid. Francisco Seco

Spain locks up independence leaders, raising tensions

A SPANISH judge has ruled the leaders of the two biggest grassroots pro- independence associations in Catalonia should remain in prison without bail on possible charges of sedition - an offence that carries a jail term of up to 10 years.

An ongoing legal investigation claims Catalonian National Assembly chief Jordi Sanchez and Omnium Cultural Association head Jordi Cuixart were heavily involved in organising a huge protest aimed at hindering a Guardia Civil investigation in Barcelona into the build-up to the banned October 1 referendum.

Members of the Guardia Civil were trapped in Catalonian government offices on September 20 as thousands of protesters encircled the building, in what has been described as a "siege”. Three police vehicles were destroyed.

Both Mr Cuixart and Mr Sanchez have 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 Catalonian police, Josep Lluis Trapero, was also questioned for a second time in 10 days, on possible charges of sedition over the regional police force's allegedly overly passive role during the build-up to the referendum.

Mr Trapero, who prosecutors had also asked to be detained, was released without bail, although his passport was confiscated.

The imprisonment of two of their best-known local leaders has provoked outrage in 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 refused to clarify if he had made a unilateral declaration of independence last week, further deepening the increasingly bitter stand-off between Catalonia and Spain.

Madrid has threatened direct government intervention if Catalonia proceeds with its independence push.

Two major demonstrations against the incarceration of Mr Sanchez and Mr Cuixart were set to take place in Barcelona yesterday. - INM



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