Operation against 'violent' pro-independence activists leads to nine arrests

Two released with charges as police transfer some suspects to Madrid

Spanish police officers escort one of the pro-independence activists arrested on Monday out of his house (by Miquel Codolar)
Spanish police officers escort one of the pro-independence activists arrested on Monday out of his house (by Miquel Codolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 23, 2019 06:18 PM

The Spanish Guardia Civil police began transferring activists from the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) pro-independence group to Madrid on Monday evening, after 9 were arrested on terrorism charges earlier in the day.

Two detainees were released with charges in the afternoon.

Ordered by Spain's National Court, Guardia Civil officers arrested the nine after a series of raids in the Vallès area, near Barcelona, in towns such as Sabadell, Mollet del Vallès, Cerdanyola del Vallès, and Vicenç de Torelló.

Some 500 officers took part in the whole operation, and according to the Guardia Civil, a "large amount of material" and substances that the police believe could be used to make explosive devices were found.

The detainees are accused of plotting violent acts, rebellion, terrorism, and possession of explosives. According to sources in the National Court, the pro-independence activists have been under investigation for over a year.

CDR a "secessionist terrorist group," says prosecutor

The public prosecutor called the detainees members of a "Catalan secessionist terrorist group," and alleged they were planning violent acts some time between the anniversary of the October 1 2017 referendum and the Supreme Court verdict on jailed Catalan leaders. 

The Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, justified the arrests saying that the "Guardia Civil police are following orders from judges in order to prevent crimes." The suspects will testify before the National Court in Madrid in the next few days.

Yet, president Quim Torra accused the state of trying to link the pro-independence movement with violence, with the verdict of Catalan leaders tried over the 2017 bid to split from Spain due out soon. The movement "is and always will be peaceful," he tweeted. 

However, spokeswoman for Spain's Socialist Party, Adriana Lastra, insisted that the arrests "are not against the independence movement nor the CDR," but rather against people who "had it in mind to carry out some kind of violent act."

Meanwhile, Catalonia's unionist parties welcomed the arrests, with Ciutadans calling the CDR "radical violent separatists," and the People's Party praising the Spanish police for taking action against those "who want to break the peace." 

"Indiscriminate detentions"

The CDR organization reacted to the arrests on Twitter, saying: "No matter how many indiscriminate raids and arbitrary detentions there are, they won't stop a determined and combative people."

The CDR, or Committees for the Defence of the Republic, are a network of pro-independence assemblies set up in 2017 that defend the attempted bid to split from Spain two years ago by promoting demonstrations and protests.

Last year two other CDR activists were accused of terrorism. One of them, Adrià Carrasco, went into exile to avoid arrest, while the other one, Tamara Carrasco, was held in her home town before the charges were dropped for both.

Trial verdict and election on horizon

The arrests come as the verdict in the trial of independence leaders in the Supreme Court is due in October. With 12 politicians and activists facing long prison sentences for the 2017 independence bid, it is unclear how supporters in Catalonia might react to a conviction.

On Monday, the acting Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, did not rule out deploying extra police units in Catalonia, saying the government will take "the prevention measures necessary to guarantee security."

Also on the horizon is another Spanish general election, on November 10, the fourth in four years, after Pedro Sánchez's Socialists were unable to gather enough support in Congress to form a government.