Madrid, Catalonia in row over arrests

Madrid, Catalonia in row over arrests

Madrid, Catalonia in row over arrests

A Spanish court has ordered two powerful Catalan separatists to be detained, threatening a further escalation of the political crisis on Oct. 17 as both sides refuse to budge in their high-stakes standoff over the region’s independence bid.  

Protests broke out in Catalonia’s capital Barcelona on Oct. 16 as news spread that Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez were being kept behind bars on sedition charges.

The pair are the leaders of pro-independence citizens’ groups Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) respectively, both of which count tens of thousands of members and have emerged as key players in the Catalonia crisis.

They are accused of stirring up major protests in the run-up to the banned Oct. 1 independence referendum in the region of 7.5 million people which has its own language and culture.

“The state is playing at provocation,” Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said after the National Court ruling, as the two groups furiously called on the people of Catalonia to protest, with a strike planned for yesterday.

“I’m calling for Catalan society to peacefully protest tomorrow,” said Jordi Bosch, secretary general of Omnium Cultural.However, Spain’s Justice Minister Rafael Catala said yesterday that the court rulings were “judicial and not a political.”

“These are not political prisoners because yesterday’s prison ruling was due to a crime [that was committed],” Catala said at an event in Madrid.   

Calls for protest spread on social media with demonstrations planned in Catalonia and beyond, including London. Some people stopped work briefly at midday to call for the “release of political prisoners.”

Meanwhile, Spain’s Constitutional Court said yesterday the referendum law passed by the Catalan government Sept. 6 to hold a vote on independence was void, a spokesman said.