By Jesse Stiller
Spain’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of five Catalan politicians on March 23, according to The New York Times. A Spanish Supreme Court Judge signed off on six additional international arrest warrants for former Catalan politicians who fled persecution, including Carles Puigdemont, the former leader of Catalonia.
Judge Pablo Llarena sentenced five politicians from the Catalonia region of Spain to be detained without bail, in what was an apparent judicial attack to the separatist movement taking place in the region, according to The New York Times.
Puigdemont was arrested in Germany on March 24 while traveling from Denmark to Belgium. He has not yet been extradited back to Spain. He had been living in self-imposed exile after the Catalonian Parliament declared independence from Spain, according to BBC.
After the arrests were announced, violent clashes erupted in Catalonia. At least 89 protesters were left injured, and four arrests were made, according to BBC.
Demonstrators marched and chanted, “Freedom for the political prisoners” and “This Europe is shameful,” according to BBC.
Protesters also blocked roads in central Barcelona and Catalonia, according to ABC.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee filed a complaint by announcing that Spain violated Puigdemont’s political rights, according to ABC. The complaint was praised by supporters of Puigdemont and Catalan independence.
“The series of steps taken by the Spanish executive and judicial authorities has rendered it impossible for him to discharge his duties and responsibilities as the democratically elected president of Catalonia,” the complaint stated, according to The Guardian. “As a consequence, the applicant has been forced against his will and under protest to step aside to allow the nomination of an alternative candidate.”
The Committee’s lawyers and other human rights experts warn that Spain may have violated human, civil and political rights during the crackdown on Catalonia’s separatist movement and subsequent battle to be recognized, according to ABC.
The Spanish government maintains that the Catalan declaration of independence was illegal and violated the Spanish constitution, according to The New York Times. The politicians arrested face a litany of charges including rebellion, which itself carries a 30-year prison sentence.
The independence referendum took place in Catalonia in October 2017, according to BBC. Its effects remain months later as tensions escalate between Catalan secessionists and Spanish nationalists.