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1 Dec, 2018 15:53

Jailed Catalan leaders go on hunger strike in protest of Madrid hampering European court appeal

Jailed Catalan leaders go on hunger strike in protest of Madrid hampering European court appeal

Two leaders of Catalonia’s pro-independence movement jailed by Spain are going on a hunger strike over what they see as Madrid violating their right to turn to European courts for protection through red tape.

In a joint statement released on Saturday, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull, who have been kept in pre-trial detention over their roles in organizing a referendum of Catalan independence last year, accused the Spanish Constitutional Court of failing to review their appeals in due time. The court accepted all their complaints, but is not reviewing them. One appeal has been without an answer for over a year now, they said.

This red tape legally prevents them from turning to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for protection, which they could have done if their appeal was rejected from the start or after a deliberation, they said.

“We do not ask the Constitutional Court for any treatment of favor. But we do not passively accept any discrimination or unwarranted procrastination,” the statement said.

They added that the hunger strike is “one of the few legitimate forms of protest” left to them and will be indefinite.

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Catalonia’s October 2017 independence referendum was met with a crackdown on the province’s leadership by the central Spanish government. It took direct control of the land and accused the organizers of the ballot of various crimes, including rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of public money.

Nine Catalan leaders are currently jailed in Spain awaiting trial. Earlier on Friday, Carles Puigdemont, the ousted president of Catalonia, who is currently living in Belgium to avoid arrest by Spanish authorities, published a photo of seven of his fellow pro-independence figures held in custody by Madrid, including the two hunger strikers.

The Spanish government responded to the protest by reiterating that the Catalans will receive a fair trial, contrasting their own expectations to the contrary. The process is expected to start in January.

The prison administration told El Pais newspaper that Sànchez and Turull will have to attend the dining room in accordance with the rules for inmates and that a doctor will be checking their health every two days, if they choose to continue their hunger strike.

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