The Latest: Spanish minister would prefer separatists free
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalan separatists in Spain (all times local):
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell says that he would prefer for jailed Catalan separatist leaders to be free while awaiting a trial for their role in last year’s push for independence from Spain.
Nine politicians and activists remain in prison on preliminary charges of rebellion and abuse of power, while others, including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, avoided jail by fleeing overseas.
Speaking to reporters in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Borrell said: “I personally would have preferred for the judge to take other precautionary measures that weren’t preventive jail, but that’s what the judge did and one must respect his independence.”
A veteran Socialist politician from Catalonia who presided over the European Parliament, Borrell is an advocate of Spain’s territorial unity.
Catalan separatists say that the prosecuted leaders are “political prisoners” or “in exile.” Central authorities reject the term and say that they are being dealt with according to the country’s laws.
Tens of thousands Catalans have issued a collective roar along a main artery of Barcelona to demand independence for the wealthy northeastern region from Spain.
Organizers said 470,000 people had signed up online for Tuesday’s “Diada” march, on Catalonia’s national day, but many more were expected to join the rally.
With the official slogan “Let’s Make the Catalan Republic” written in pink-colored t-shirts and signs, protesters went silent at 5.14 p.m., which on a 24-hour clock is 1714 — the year when Barcelona fell in the Spanish War of Succession.
Shouts of “independence” and “freedom” followed, sweeping along a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) -long stretch of the city’s Diagonal avenue.
In a giant symbolic wall, protesters toppled the image of a king of spades card, in an apparent rejection of the Spanish monarchy.
The Catalan leader says the focus of the Day of Catalonia holiday must be on freeing the high-profile separatists who are awaiting trial for their part in the bid by the region to break away from Spain last year.
Quim Torra says that while maintaining the goal of secession for Catalonia, his government will dedicate all its efforts into drumming up public protests before the trials of the separatists expected to start before the year’s end.
Torra says “I will not accept (guilty) sentences and I will appeal to all free-minded citizens to not accept them either.”
Torra, however, adds that his government has ruled out openly defying the justice system by releasing the prisoners from their jails, which are in Catalonia and run by his regional administration.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-independence Catalans are expected in Barcelona’s streets later on Tuesday.
Separatist authorities are calling for people to take to the streets of Barcelona to mark the Day of Catalonia, in the first of a series of mass mobilizations demanding independence from Spain.
The traditional Sept. 11 march marking the “Diada,” when the Catalan capital fell to Spanish forces in 1714, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of secession sympathizers Tuesday.
It comes nearly one year after a banned referendum on secession led to an ineffective independence declaration. Catalan separatist leaders and activists who pushed it, defying Spain’s constitutional protection of territorial integrity, are either awaiting trial in prison or fled the country.
Catalan President Quim Torra, who came to power after secessionists won a regional election, wants the new center-left national government to agree to a binding independence referendum.