Catalan separatists march, demand release of jailed leaders

Pro-independence supporters attend a demonstration in Barcelona Spain

Pro-independence supporters attend a demonstration in Barcelona Spain

Hundreds of thousands of Catalan independence supporters flooded the streets of Barcelona on Sunday calling for the release of jailed separatist leaders after a supreme court ruling frustrated their latest attempt to elect a regional leader.

"But it is not a separatist protest".

The first two jailed were Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who wield influence through their pro-independence civic organizations. "It is time to build bridges and the Catalan problem can not be solved through the courts but by dialogue and politics".

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The demonstration comes 10 days after a German court dismissed an extradition request for Catalonia's ousted separatist president Carles Puigdemont on grounds of rebellion and released him on bail. Leaders from both groups were jailed following the referendum.

In addition to the freedom of the separatists in preventive detention, the demonstrators - some 300, 000 according to the Barcelona Urban Guard - demanded the return of the seven separatist leaders exiled in other European countries.

On October 1, Catalonia held an independence referendum, during which the vast majority of voters backed the region's secession from Spain.

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Also leaders of the coalition of left Catalonia in Comú-Podem came together; they are opposed to independence but in favor of Catalans' right to decide.

Catalonia has been in political limbo since Spain's conservative central government imposed direct rule on the region after it unilaterally declared independence in October. If a new leader is not named before the end of May, Catalonia will be forced to call another election.

Spanish authorities quickly moved to crush the revived secessionist movement by arresting several Catalonian politicians on charges of rebellion and sedition.

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