Over 300000 march through Barcelona demanding release of Catalonia leaders

Call for Catalan Independence and release of ‘political prisoners’ still strong

The protest came six months after the first incarcerations of top Catalan separatist leaders for misuse of public funds, sedition and rebellion - which carries a prison sentence of 30 years and implies that a "violent uprising" took place - over their separatist push.

The regional chapters of Spain's two leading labor unions, along with other civil society groups, supported the protest, despite the complaints from some members who disagree with secession for Catalonia.

Alex de Ferrer, a 50-year-old IT specialist, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that he had chose to join the protest as jailing separatist leaders "only serves to manufacture separatists".

In addition to the freedom of the separatists in preventive detention, the demonstrators - some 300, 000 according to the Barcelona Urban Guard - demanded the return of the seven separatist leaders exiled in other European countries. "It is time to build bridges and the Catalan problem can not be solved through the courts but by dialogue and politics".

"The majority of Catalans, regardless of their political position, agree that pre-trial jail is not justified", said regional UGT union leader Camil Ros. Spanish and German prosecutors met last week at the headquarters of Eurojust in The Hague.

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Spain's central government imposed direct rule on Catalonia following its unilateral declaration of independence in October. Leaders from both groups were jailed following the referendum.

The movements at the wealthy region has plunged Spain in years.

A massive march toured today the center of Barcelona demanding the release of nine imprisoned secessionist leaders, accused of rebellion by the Spanish justice system, and favoring a political solution to the conflict in Catalonia.

Lawmakers defied court orders and held that a referendum on autonomy. The poll surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 2.8 percent. If a new leader is not named before the end of May, Catalonia will be forced to call another election.

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