Catalonia rises up

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Catalonia’s peaceful struggle for freedom has erupted into revolutionary street actions and huge demonstrations after shocking prison terms were handed down by a Spanish court to the former leaders of the Catalan government who had organised a peaceful independence referendum.

Following weeks of rising tension, violence erupted on Monday hours after Spain’s Supreme Court handed down sentences totalling 100 years to nine Catalan leaders for their role in the 2017 poll.

Protests have continued every day since, alongside giant pro-independence marches and other strikes and demonstrations. Attacks by riot police have also taken place, and Amnesty International says it has observed several cases of “excessive use of force, including inappropriate and unjustified use of rubber bullets”.

The scenes have recalled Spain’s brutal suppression of the 2016 referendum, followed by a systematic legal assault on the Catalan government which reached its conclusion this week.

Spain has also reissued an international arrest warrant for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is living in exile. He was accused of “sedition” and “misuse of public finds” in regard to the referendum.

In a tweet from Brussels, Mr Puigdemont denounced the sentences as an outrage. “100 years in all. An outrage. Now more than ever, by your side and those of your families. It is time to react as never before,” he wrote.

His former deputy Oriol Junqueras, who is facing 13 years behind bars, said the story was far from over. “Nothing ends today, you neither win nor convince,” he wrote in remarks directed at Spain’s central government. We will come back even stronger... and win,” he said.

In common with many cities across the world, a solidarity protest was held in Dublin at short notice with the support of republicans and socialists.

Sinn Féin has called the sentences “an affront to democratic values” and urged the 26 County government to speak out and condemn what it called “this outrageous decision”. It said it will urgently raise the issue in the Dáil.

Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe said: “I am absolutely outraged at the jailing of these nine Catalan political and civil society leaders. I want to send my solidarity to each one of them and their families at this extremely emotional and difficult time.

“The jailing of these political prisoners is an affront to democratic values and should be of huge concern to democrats and all those who believe in freedom of expression around the world.”

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