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Barcelona politicians demand release of Catalans

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 03/11/2017
People hold up 'esteladas', or Catalonia's independence flag in front of a Spanish police officer in Madrid on Thursday [Francisco Seco/AP] © Provided by Al Jazeera People hold up 'esteladas', or Catalonia's independence flag in front of a Spanish police officer in Madrid on Thursday [Francisco Seco/AP]

Barcelona, Spain - Barcelona's politicians spoke out on Friday against the imprisonment of nine former Catalan ministers as their city braces for continued protests after Spain imposed direct rule. 

The nine Catalan government officials, including dismissed Vice President Oriol Junqueras, were jailed without bail in Madrid on Thursday on charges of sedition, rebellion, and misuse of funds. 

Barcelona's city council issued a declaration calling for the immediate release of these politicians along with Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, two pro-independence organisers jailed since October 16. 

The declaration was signed by parties from across the political spectrum. Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor of Barcelona, said the declaration was a "great consensus in the defence of freedoms and fundamental rights". 

The only parties that declined to sign the declaration were the centre-left Spanish Socialist Party, the centre-right People's Party, and the populist right Citizens party. 

The accused former officials are required to deposit 6.7m euros ($7.2m) to cover expected court costs. In the event they are unable to pay the amount, their property will be seized. 

Santi Vila, the former Catalan Business Minister, was the only person granted bail. Vila paid the 50,000 euro ($58,300) fee and is expected to be released pending trial later Friday. 

Reports have emerged that an arrest warrant had been issued for ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in Brussels, though the Spanish judiciary has yet to confirm. 

Andreu Van den Eynde, the lawyer for several members of the dismissed Catalan government, suggested after Thursday's court hearing that he does not have faith in fair legal proceedings. 

Eynde told Catalan radio station RAC1 that Judge Carmen Lamela was "looking at her mobile phone" while his legal team presented evidence. 

"When a prosecutor is looking down, when it does not matter how much documentation we present," then it feels as if the "decision was made beforehand", Eynde said. 

The Catalan government was sacked last Saturday after it declared independence the previous day. 

The Spanish government took direct control of the breakaway region after applying Article 155 of the constitution the same day.

The political crisis over Catalonia's independence began on October 1 when a disputed referendum was met with a harsh police crackdown by Spanish police. 

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The Catalan government claims 90 percent of voters chose independence, but turnout was less than 50 percent. 

Spain claims the vote was illegal, contravening the Spanish constitution. 

Hundreds of people are protesting Spain's actions against the Catalan separatists throughout Barcelona.

A group of demonstrators on Passeig de Gracia, one of the largest streets in Barcelona, held signs and posters on Friday calling for the release of "political prisoners". 

The Committee for the Defence of the Republic - a grassroots network of pro-independence protesters that has risen to prominence since October 1 - has called for widespread demonstrations to continue throughout the weekend to "rebuke" the imprisonment of their government.

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