Tensions run high between Madrid, separatists

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 02.10.2019 01:03

Protesters gathered in Girona Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of a banned Catalan independence vote, some hurling eggs at police and toppling garbage bins, amid a hardening political atmosphere around Spain's most polarizing issue.

Tensions between separatists in the region and Madrid have run high in recent days after Spain's high court sent seven Catalan separatist activists to jail, which was followed by the regional parliament adopting a resolution backing civil disobedience. The arrests last week of seven pro-independence activists who face possible terrorism charges have also angered many in Catalonia, who liken the crackdown to an attempt by Spanish authorities to criminalize their political independence movement.

The activists were linked to the grassroots, self-appointed Committees for the Defense of the Republic, or CDRs, which have called some of yesterday's protests. The Oct. 1 anniversary protests come before the verdict, expected in the next two weeks, of separatist leaders arrested in 2017 over their role in the region's failed independence bid. The botched declaration of independence, which was followed by Madrid sidelining regional authorities and ruling Catalonia directly for months, still dominates national politics.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said yesterday that Madrid would not hesitate to apply direct rule to Catalonia again if the regional government broke any laws. "I hope it doesn't arrive at that point," Sanchez said in an interview with broadcaster Cadena Ser.

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