Catalan separatist leaders detained amid sedition investigation

Spain’s High Court has remanded two leaders of a Catalan separatist organization on suspicion of sedition. The prosecution alleges them to be the key figures in organizing the recent independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by Madrid.

The leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Cuixart of the Omnium Cultural group were jailed on Monday after questioning.The two men will not be allowed to post bail and remain in custody.

The Catalan regional police chief, Maj. Josep Lluis Trapero, and colleague Lt. Teresa Laplana were also questioned on Monday, but unlike the Catalan independence activists they have avoided jail. The police officials, however, were forced to give up their passports and have to appear in court every two weeks.

READ MORE: Catalan quandary: No big national power supports its independence – analyst

The four people are under investigation over their role in the demonstrations in Barcelona on September 20-21, which erupted as several Catalan officials were arrested and Spanish police raided offices during the crackdown ahead of the referendum on October 1.The demonstrations resulted in clashes, during which several police vehicles were damaged.

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, known as a vocal supporter of Catalan independence, has condemned the arrests, claiming that Spain has created its “first high-level political prisoners” after the referendum.

The situation around Catalonia remains a stalemate, as both Madrid and regional leaders appear reluctant to make decisive moves.

Last Tuesday, following the October 1 independence referendum, deemed illegal by the central authorities, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signed a symbolic declaration of independence, calling on “all states and international organizations to recognize the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state.”

The declaration was, however, suspended moments later as Catalan leaders called for negotiations with the central government.

Madrid responded by urging the Catalan authorities to clarify their stance on independence, giving Puigdemont a deadline of Monday. The Catalan leader sent Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy a reply which did not contain a simple answer of “yes” or “no” on independence, and was deemed “not valid” by the central government. Madrid then shifted the deadline for Catalonia to make up its mind on independence to Thursday. Failure to do so might prompt Madrid to trigger Article 155 of the constitution and strip the region of its autonomy.