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Demonstrators block highways across Catalonia to protest Puigdemont’s detention

People, one of them wrapped in a Catalan independence flag, gather during a protest in support of Catalan politicians jailed on charges of sedition and condemning the arrest of Catalonia's former president during a protest in Barcelona, Spain, on March 27, 2018.

Santi Palacios/The Associated Press

Demonstrators angered by the detention of former leader Carles Puigdemont blocked highways across Catalonia and roads in central Barcelona on Tuesday, as the separatist politician remained in a German jail pending a decision on Spain’s extradition request.

Transportation authorities in the northeastern Spanish region said a main motorway remained blocked in Figueres, near the border with France. Demonstrators also stopped traffic in another highway leading to the city of Lleida, and a national road between Tarragona and Valencia.

Protesters also caused disruptions early Tuesday on several roads in central Barcelona, the regional capital.

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Prosperous Catalonia has been marred by largely peaceful protests for more than six months, since a bid for secession from Spain began in earnest.

The Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence in late October following an ad-hoc referendum banned by the Spanish government received no international recognition and provoked a takeover of the regional government by Spanish authorities.

Puigdemont was ousted and fled to Belgium. Last week, a Spanish Supreme Court judge charged the 55-year-old politician with rebellion and misuse of public funds.

Spain then issued arrest warrants for six of the seven Catalan separatists who have fled the country. Puigdemont was detained on Sunday, shortly after crossing the border into Germany from Denmark.

Further decisions on Puigdemont’s immediate future appear unlikely before Easter. A court in Schleswig will decide on formal pre-extradition custody and whether his extradition is admissible. Such cases are typically dealt with in writing, without a hearing, though one is possible.

Germany’s criminal code – unlike Belgium’s, where Spain had earlier sought Puigdemont’s extradition – includes an offence that appears to be comparable to rebellion, the main accusation against the Catalan politician. It calls for prison sentences for anyone who “undertakes, by force or through threat of force” to undermine the republic’s existence or change its constitutional order.

In a move celebrated by his supporters, the United Nations Human Rights Committee announced that it has registered a complaint by Puigdemont alleging that Spain has violated his political rights.

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A group of lawyers and human rights experts lodged the case in March, claiming that Spain has violated human, civil and political rights in its crackdown on Catalonia’s independence bid. The Spanish government has six months to respond.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is awaiting to hear his fate at a court in Germany following a European arrest warrant issued by Spain for his role in the declaration of independence. Reuters
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