Thousands protest in Barcelona after Spanish judge jails eight members of former Catalan government

| Updated: November 05, 2017 19:58:09

Thousands of people gathered outside Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona on Thursday. - BBC Thousands of people gathered outside Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona on Thursday. - BBC

Thousands of Catalans on Thursday protested against the detention of eight regional ministers sacked over Catalonia's push for independence from Spain.

The officials - who appeared in Spain's high court - are accused of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds.

Prosecutors are also seeking a European Arrest Warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who did not show up in court and is now in Belgium, the BBC reports.

The request also covers four other ex-ministers who ignored the summons.

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum on independence from Spain was held in Catalonia on 1 October in defiance of a constitutional court ruling that had declared it illegal.

Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on Catalonia, dissolving the regional parliament and calling local elections for 21 December.

This came after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare the independence of the affluent north-eastern region.

The Catalan government said that of the 43 per cent of potential voters who took part in the referendum, 90 per cent were in favour of independence.

On Thursday, thousands of people gathered outside Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona.

Many carried Catalan flags and slogans that read "Freedom for political prisoners".

Similar protest rallies were held in other Catalan towns.

Political parties and civic groups in the affluent north-eastern region also condemned the judicial move,

What happened in Spain's high court in Madrid?

Nine out of 14 summoned Catalan ex-ministers appeared before Judge Carmen Lamela.

She said they had to be detained because they might otherwise leave the country or destroy evidence.

Those who were held are:

  • Former Deputy Vice-President Oriol Junqueras
  • Former Interior Minister Joaquim Forn
  • Former Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva
  • Former Justice Minister Carles Mundó
  • Former Labour Minister Dolors Bassa
  • Former Government Presidency Councillor Jordi Turull
  • Former Sustainable Development Minister Josep Rull
  • Former Culture Minister Meritxell Borras

The ninth official, ex-Business Minister Santi Vila, was granted bail at the request of prosecutors. He quit before the Catalan parliament voted for independence last Friday.

In addition to Mr Puigdemont, prosecutors have asked Spain's high court judge to issue European arrest warrants for the following Catalan officials:

  • Meritxell Serret, former agriculture minister
  • Antoni Comín, former health minister
  • Lluís Puig, former culture minister
  • Clara Ponsatí, former education minister

Five other senior members of the Catalan parliament, as well as Speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing the same charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court.

Their hearings have been postponed until 9 November.

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