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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 April 2019

Catalan separatists on hunger strike call for EU support

Spanish PM expected to be greeted by thousands of protesters on Friday when visiting Barcelona

Catalan regional president, Quim Torra, sat next to several yellow ribbons, placed in support of imprisoned Catalan politicians. EPA.
Catalan regional president, Quim Torra, sat next to several yellow ribbons, placed in support of imprisoned Catalan politicians. EPA.

Catalan independence leaders currently on hunger strike in prison have pleaded with EU heads of state for help over perceived injustices in the Spanish legal system.

Entering their third week without food, the four men have written letters to detail their alleged mistreatment by Spanish courts.

“There are nine of us and we have been in prison without trial for over a year, accused of rebellion for calling a peaceful referendum. Our rights to the presumption of innocence and to a fair trial are being violated,” the letter said. One has been hospitalised since the hunger strike.

Overall, 18 Catalan separatists await trial after an unauthorised independence bid last year. If found guilty of the charges, which include rebellion, they could face decades locked up.

Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez and his cabinet are to visit Barcelona later this week after talks with Catalonia’s regional administration, which supports independence, and the central government broke down. Thousands of police officers are expected to be deployed with street demonstrations widely expected on Friday, a year since fresh Catalan elections were held.

On Tuesday, the Spanish Supreme Court held a hearing to determine whether it could hold the trial. Defence lawyers argue it does not and that the case should be held by the Catalan high court.

The president of Catalonia government at the time of the vote, Carles Puigdemont, currently resides in Belgium after fleeing from Spain and has continued to vent his frustrations.

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“The Socialist government is joining the narrative of the parties of the right,” he told the Financial Times. “I am afraid that the situation could go in a worse direction in the next few months.”

“A former fascist activist is now the (People’s Party) candidate for the municipality of Barcelona. The extreme right threatens European values; Catalonia will fight against it, as we had done before,” he tweeted.

The independence vote was widely supported by Catalans but led to a crackdown by Spanish authorities. A December 2017 snap regional election gave separatists 47.5 per cent of the popular vote but a slim majority of 70 seats in the parliament due to proportional representation.

Barcelona is expected to be on high alert this Friday, a year to the day since the regional elections.

Updated: December 18, 2018 05:56 PM

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