Barcelona – Hundreds of thousands of people backing Catalonia’s bid to secede from Spain packed the streets in downtown Barcelona on Saturday to demand the release of jailed separatist leaders.
The rally’s grassroots organisers called for 10 prominent members of the secessionist movement in the northeastern Spanish region to be freed from prison.
Eight former members of Catalonia’s dissolved Cabinet and two activists are in jail while Spanish authorities investigate their alleged roles in promoting an illegal declaration of independence last month in violation of Spain’s Constitution.
A separate court in Madrid on Thursday granted bail to another six Catalan lawmakers who are subject of another investigation into the secession push.
Barcelona’s police said that 750 000 people attended the rally. Many of the protesters carried pro-independence “estelada” flags, with its white star and blue triangle superimposed over the traditional red-and-yellow Catalan colours. Many also held signs saying in Catalan “Freedom Political Prisoners” and wore yellow ribbons as a symbol of their demands.
Also on Saturday, the pro-independence Republic Left party announced that its jailed leader Oriol Junqueras will be its top candidate for the upcoming regional elections on December 21. The Catalan party is including other jailed leaders in its list for the regional parliament. Polls show that Republic Left is favoured to win the upcoming ballot, although it won’t secure an outright majority.