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PROFILE The two Jordis: Who are Catalonia's detained independence leaders?

Europe
17.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Madrid (dpa) - Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart are the public faces of the Catalan independence movement, and are now being hailed by supporters as "political prisoners" after they were jailed on sedition charges.

The two men head associations which were behind recent pro-independence demonstrations in Spain‘s Catalonia region, including a general strike on October 3 that saw 700,000 people turn out in Barcelona.

Sanchez, 53, is a left-wing political science professor and president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), while Cuixart, a 42-year-old high-school dropout and entrepeneur, heads Omnium Cultural - which counts Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola among its members.

The ANC was founded in 2012 to achieve Catalan independence through "democratic and peaceful means" while Omnium Cultural was set up in 1961 to defend the Catalan language, after public use of the language was banned under the Francisco Franco dictatorship.

Catalonia, a wealthy region in Spain‘s north-east with a separate language, is at the centre of a serious political crisis after holding an October 1 independence referendum that was banned by the Constitutional Court and was obstructed violently by Spanish police.

In a dpa interview on the eve of the referendum, Sanchez said he had no "particular fear" of arrest. "My conscience is very, very clear about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it," he said.

Jail did not come as a surprise for the "two Jordis," as they have become known.

Both of them released pre-recorded videos on Twitter urging their supporters to keep campaigning for independence and to remain peaceful.

"If necessary, we will return to working underground," said Cuixart, who owns a packaging machinery company and sports two earrings and a mullet haircut.

Sanchez called for a "permanent mobilization that should lead us to the proclamation of the republic."

The pair are under investigation in connection to protests in Barcelona on September 20-21 - held in response to Spanish police raids that led to the confiscation of millions of referendum papers and the brief arrest of 14 Catalan officials.

While police were requisitioning material at the regional economy ministry, large crowds assembled outside, preventing officers from leaving the building for several hours. Three police cars were also vandalized.

On Monday, after interrogating Sanchez and Cuixart, Madrid judge Carmel Lamela sent the suspect to pretrial detention without bail, singling them out as the main instigators of protests trying to prevent the enforcement of the law.

The judge ruled that detention was justified because the suspects may have gone into hiding, repeated their alleged crimes, tampered with evidence and obstructed investigations against them.

While many in Catalonia saw the decision as disproportionate, the Madrid-based El Pais newspaper, which has taken a very harsh line against Catalan separatism, warned that "a serious violation of the law does not come without a price in a democratic state."

 

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