March to demand freedom for jailed leaders underway
Nine pro-independence politicians in pre-trial prison, some for nine months, with seven more in exile
A mass march to demand freedom for the nine pro-independence leaders in pre-trial jail is underway.
Thousands of people started to march in Barcelona's city center at 7pm with a clear motto: 'Neither prison nor exile, we want you home."
The march started at plaça Espanya and is due to finish outside the historical La Model prison, closed a year ago after 113 years up and running.
Over the years La Model prison has become a symbol of the fascist dictator Franco's regime.
Nine officials in prison, seven in exile
Nine pro-independence leaders are in pre-trial prison, and the demonstration marks nine months since the ones who have been incarcerated the longest, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, were put custody.
On October 16 the two activists started to face these precautionary measures, and some two weeks later seven former Catalan government members faced the same fate.
Some of them were released, but then on March were ordered to enter jail once more.
At the moment, apart from Sánchez and Cuixart, six former ministers are behind bars, along with the former Parliament president, Carme Forcadell.
Also seven former officials are at the moment exiled in Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland, seeking refuge of Spain's justice.
Crucial moment for judicial case
The march comes in a crucial moment for the judicial case against them.
The judge in charge closed the inquiry some days ago, formally prosecuting 25 individuals, 13 of which for rebellion, a crime which might carry up to 30 years in jail.
Also, the magistrate suspended six of them as MPs because the Spanish law allows him to do so even before being tried for individuals with a prison order and prosecuted for terrorism and rebellion.
Germany rejects rebellion charges for Puigdemont
Yet this week the German judiciary ruled out extraditing the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, for rebellion.
This has made not only the prosecuted politicians but part of the public opinion question whether the rebellion charges that the ones in Spain have to face are appropriate.
The defenses of the officials in jail held an unprecedented joint press conference on Friday in which they demanded their clients to be freed.
They also asked the Spanish new general prosecutor to lower the rebellion charges against them.