The leaders of two of Catalonia’s pro-independence organisations have been jailed by a Spanish judge.
Jordi Sànchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, president of Òmnium Cultural were sent to prison without bail for their role in the Catalan independence referendum that took place earlier this month.
The political imprisonments come on the same day that the same judge ordered the confiscation of the passport of the chief of the Catalan police, Josep-Lluís Trapero. Trapero was accused of not having done enough to stop voters from participating in the independence referendum.
The news is sure to increase tensions in the region which has been at the centre of a standoff between Madrid and the autonomous government following the October 1st ballot. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has refused to recognise the legitimacy of the vote which resulted in a 90% vote in favour of independence, claiming it was illegal.
Turnout on October 1st was 43% as polling stations were seized and voters brutally beaten by Spanish State Police. Many who opposed independence had also declined to vote.
Tensions were already high prior to the political imprisonments with Rajoy refusing Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s offer to negotiate. Madrid has given the Catalan government until Thursday to clarify if it has declared independence. Expectations are high that Madrid will seize control of the autonomous region by invoking Section 155 of the Spanish constitution.
The European Commission has said it cannot mediate unless both parties are in agreement. The imprisonment of two political activists on charges of aiding a democratic referendum make talks increasingly unlikely.
In a statement on twitter, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said: “Spain jails Catalonia’s civil society leaders for organising peaceful demonstrations. Sadly, we have political prisoners again.”