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Two pro-independence mayors arrested over 'public disorder' offenses

Lawyer calls detentions "unjustified and disproportionate," and claims he was not let in police station for speaking in Catalan

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16 January 2019 11:06 AM

by

ACN | Girona

Two mayors from the pro-independence far-left CUP party were arrested on Wednesday morning in the Girona region, in northern Catalonia. The two politicians were later released.

Nine more activists from the CDR protest group were temporarily detained by the Spanish police, all of them for "public disorder" offenses.

Later in the day, four more people were detained for allegedly blocking the high-speed rail line on the anniversary of the October 1 independence referendum, bringing the total number of arrests on Wednesday to 15.

Sources in the CDR protest group say those arrested were a photojournalist and three activists from the La Forja youth organization and the SEPC student union.

All of the 11 people arrested earlier in the day, including the two mayors, were later released to wait for the court to summon them to answer public disorder charges.

Ignasi Sabater, mayor of Verges, was one of the local officials arrested, with the other being the head of the Celrà council, Dani Cornellà.

  • "[The detentions are] unjustified and disproportionate"

    Benet Salellas · CUP lawyer

Shortly afterwards, Sabater's lawyer, Benet Salellas, called the detentions "unjustified and disproportionate." He claims arresting someone for public disorder offenses instead of summoning them by letter is not the usual practice.

The lawyer believes the arrests were related to the demonstration held in Girona on December 6, 2018, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution.

Issue with speaking Catalan at police station

Salellas also stated that on learning what had occurred he went to the Spanish police station in Girona were the mayors were being held, but was not allowed in because he spoke in Catalan.

"I was told that until I speak Spanish, I would not be let in," he told the RAC1 radio station, while still waiting to speak with a manager of the police station.

"It is an attack on multilinguism and, in this case, also the right to a defense," added Salellas.

Protest in parliament

The JxCAT, ERC and CUP pro-independence parties, along with the left-wing Catalunya en Comú-Podem, announced that they would abandon the parliamentary committees convened for Wednesday morning to protest the detentions.

Carlos Carrizosa, the spokesperson of unionist Ciutadans party, accused MPs who left the committees of being "lazy" and not earning their salary. "They want to get paid without going to work, and today they found the perfect excuse," he said.

Speaker and government vice president support arrested officials

The Catalan parliament speaker shows support for the arrested pro-independence mayors: "We hope they are immediately released. Stop with the repression, enough with criminalizing public protest."

"The arrests seem absolutely disproportionate, we hope they are promptly released, and we demand maximum transparency about this operation by the Spanish police," says the government vice president.

Catalan Socialists complained about the pro-independence parties not attending parliamentary committees in protest over the arrest of two mayors. "The chamber has experienced a day of paralysis," said MP Pol Gibert.

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  • One of the CUP party's lawyers, Benet Salellas, outside the Spanish police station in Girona on January 16, 2019 (by Marina López)

  • One of the CUP party's lawyers, Benet Salellas, outside the Spanish police station in Girona on January 16, 2019 (by Marina López)

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