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Catalonia separatists block roads and railways to protest against trial of pro-independence politicians

SEPARATIST demonstrators blocked roads and railways across Catalonia today in huge protests against the trial of pro-independence politicians in Madrid.

The disruption took place alongside a “general strike” called by separatist trade unions that was officially about demands for a higher minimum wage and a 35-hour week, although these issues were less prominent on placards and in the chants of the crowds than calls for the release of the 12 Catalan politicians facing sentences of up to 25 years in prison for organising an unconstitutional referendum on independence in 2017.

One protester was arrested for hitting an officer in central Barcelona, police said. A second arrest was made on a highway north of Barcelona where protesters threw objects at a line of riot police.

Seven officers also received minor injuries when protesters threw stones at them on another road, according to police. Protesters elsewhere burned tyres on some motorways.

Regional transport authorities said the disruptions affected main thoroughfares in Barcelona and half a dozen major roads and railway lines elsewhere in Catalonia.

Most trade unions did not participate in the strike and most businesses remained open.

The referendum divided Catalans down the middle — with those opposed to independence mostly boycotting the vote — but saw a brutal crackdown by the Spanish state.

Divisions over how to approach the issue of secession, which is not allowed by Spain’s constitution, have since forced the Socialist Party government of Pedro Sanchez to call early elections as Basque and Catalan parties withdrew backing.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard defendant Josep Rull, former head of territorial affairs for Catalonia, argue that politicians had had to balance the attitude of the Constitutional Court — which had warned them not to proceed with a vote on secession — with the “popular mandate” he said pro-independence parties had received by winning elections in the region.

He faces a possible 16 years in prison for rebellion and sedition under laws dating back to Francisco Franco’s fascist dictatorship.

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