Leaders of two of the main pro-independence organisations in Catalonia have been sent to prison without bail on charges of “sedition” by the Spanish government as fears grow that Madrid is on a course to ignite civil war.
A Spanish judge decided to imprison Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, president of Omnium Cultural, for their role in the October 1 referendum on independence.
The chief of the Catalan police, also accused of sedition, was released, although his passport was ordered withheld.
Some fourteen high-ranking officials of the Catalan government have been arrested so far. Under Spanish criminal law, a sedition conviction carries jail sentences of between 4 and 15 years. The charge may be bought against those that act “publicly and tumultuously” to prevent the the work of authorities “by force or illegally”.
As the news of the internment emerged, people sporadically performed a pots-and-pans protest. Hundreds of thousands later filled the streets of Barcelona in a public demonstration at the move.
In Ireland, Catalans have been protesting against the referendum violence of the Spanish police.
“The U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday reminds me of similarities between one society and the other. We feel some brotherhood with the Irish. We are in the same situation you were in,” said Dani Orta, who has been living in Ireland for 17 years.
Dublin-based human rights lawyer Albert Llussa, who returned home to Catalonia to vote, said the violence earlier this month had been “horrendous”.
“It is so humiliating that in today’s date in the 21st century, you should see your neighbours, friends and compatriots being beaten like dogs with an unnecessary use of force,” he said.
“For what? For dropping a ballot into a ballot box. A referendum is not an illegal act. It is not a crime under Spanish law. Many Catalans just want to be acknowledged in the way that we identify ourself.”
In both Ireland and Scotland, there have been calls for more politicians, particularly those who identify as nationalist or progressive, to oppose the attempts by Madrid to violently suppress Catalan independence.
Catalan national Monica Pons, a student at Glasgow University, said Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, is not able to deal with the Catalan conflict.
A new plan by Madrid to take direct control of Catalan government functions would cause further violence and “create more distance and hate between Catalans and Spanish people,” she said.
Spanish police are said to be ready to arrest Catalan President Carles Puigdemont if makes a declaration of independence, which was approved by the Catalan parliament on foot of the October 1 referendum.
“I understand that our government is delaying the declaration of independence because we need international support and mediation, but Rajoy is never going to talk about anything, because the unity of Spain is the only topic on his table,” she said.