In Catalonia, the surprise arrest of the former Catalan Prime Minister has made waves. The Catalan independence organization ANC, whose former president Jordí Sánchez is also in custody, organized rallies in front of the headquarters of the EU Commission delegation in Barcelona, which was attended by around 55,000 people, police said. The march was to end in the evening in front of the German embassy.
During the protests there were sometimes violent clashes between the demonstrators and the police. Some photos and videos showed that protesters were throwing objects at the police. Officials fired warning shots into the air and used batons. According to the health authority over 100 people were injured, including at least 23 police officers. So far, according to authorities, there were four arrests.
Also in other cities was protested. In Girona, where Puigdemont was former mayor, demonstrators sprayed the building housing the central government representative in yellow and replaced the Spanish flag with the Catalan flag of independence (Estelada). According to the agency, separatists have also tried to impede traffic on four highways.
Spain does not guarantee the detainee a fair trial, only revenge and repression, said Elsa Artadi, spokeswoman for Puigdemont’s JxCat party. Her party colleague Quim Torra said the arrest was not just a German affair; the whole of Europe is now responsible.
Nine independence advocates in custody
Already on Sunday afternoon a wave of solidarity with the Catalans went through the Basque Country, where traditionally there was an open ear for the independence aspirations. In Pamplona and many other cities, people protested against the arrest of five Catalan politicians on Friday night, before the German authorities’ access was known. They demanded the release of the « political prisoners » and an end to the state of emergency in Catalonia.
Nine independence activists are in Spanish prisons, six others are in exile. Pablo Llarena, an examining magistrate at the Spanish Supreme Court, is doing his utmost to stop the separatists. On Friday evening, he arrested Jordi Turull, who had tried to let the Catalan House of Representatives, in which the independence advocates after the early parliamentary elections of 21 December still hold a wafer-thin majority, to be prime minister. With him, the former parliamentary president Carmé Forcadell and the former Foreign Minister Raul Romeva were behind bars. At the same time, Llarena reactivated the international arrest warrant for Puigdemont, which had been suspended in December.
But gradually you hear in Spain warning voices against the crackdown on the judiciary. Former Prime Minister Felipe González warned in Madrid that the judiciary is taking on the role of politics. It’s about winning the Catalans, not humiliating them.
Switzerland judged case differently
Puigdemont’s arrest marks a provisional end to three moving months in which the politician traveled through several European countries. Before his visit to Finland two days ago, his last remaining station in freedom, he had been a guest in Switzerland. There he participated in a film festival in a debate with former Federal Councilor Micheline Calmy-Rey. The Swiss authorities had already announced in advance of Puigdemont’s visit that they would not arrest the Catalan politician. Puigdemont was described by them as a Spanish « Schengen space citizen » who is free to make political speeches in Switzerland, as long as he adheres to the valid legal system. For the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Catalonia conflict is an internal affair of Spain.