Spain: Catalonia: detention of independence leaders sparks massive protests calling for release of "political prisoners"

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Catalonia: detention of independence leaders sparks massive protests calling for release of "political prisoners"
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"A Spanish judge has jailed two key members of the Catalan independence movement.

Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who lead prominent separatist groups, are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.

The men were leading figures in the 1 October independence vote, which the Madrid government regards as illegal.

A protest over the detentions has begun in Barcelona and other demonstrations across Catalonia are expected later.

Mr Sánchez, who heads the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a pro-independence organisation, and Mr Cuixart, leader of Omnium Cultural, appeared before the High Court in Madrid on Monday.

They are being investigated over a protest on 20 September in which a crowd blocked Civil Guard officers inside a building in Barcelona, Catalonia's regional capital."

See: Catalonia: Spain detains two separatists (BBC News, link)

A popular refrain is that the "Jordis" are political prisoners, something strongly denied by unionist political parties and newspapers. In 2012 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) published a resolution: The definition of political prisoner (pdf) which establishes five criteria to establish whether someone can be afforded such a status.

See also: a report from the demonstration in Barcelona yesterday (17 October): Thousands demand release of jailed Catalan separatists(Al Jazeera, link):

"More than 200,000 people took to the streets in Barcelona, demanding the release of two men they consider political prisoners after they were arrested earlier this week on charges of sedition.

Chanting "Freedom for Sanchez and Cuixart!" protesters called for the release of Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural and Jordi Sanchez of the National Catalan Assembly (ANC) who were imprisoned without bail in Madrid on Monday, pending a trial on charges of sedition in relation to their separatist organising efforts.


Xavier Garcia Albiol, leader of Catalonia's PP [Popular Party], applauded the decision to imprison Cuixart and Sanchez.

"Rule of law ends up putting everyone in their place," he tweeted.

But Josep Costa, a professor of political science at Barcelona's Universitat Pompeu Fabra, said the imprisonment marked "another episode showing the complete breakdown of rule of law in Spain."

"It's the government filing the charges and seeking the imprisonment of political opponents," Costa said.

Jordi Graupera, a Catalan author and postdoctoral researcher at Princeton, agreed: "They are political prisoners. They are being punished for being successful in their peaceful resistance strategy," he told Al Jazeera."

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