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Spain's Rajoy heads to Catalonia for first visit since imposing direct rule

Source: Reuters - Sun 12th Nov 2017
Spain's Rajoy heads to Catalonia for first visit since imposing direct rule

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will travel to Catalonia's capital, Barcelona, on Sunday, his first trip to the region since the national government dismissed the regional administration for its unilateral declaration of independence in late October.

Rajoy is due to attend a presentation by a candidate from his Popular Party at a hotel, and will not make any public appearance in the city.

His visit comes a day after hundreds of thousands of Catalans protested against the jailing of regional officials for declaring independence on October 27 after a banned referendum.

Police estimated the number of protesters at 750,000. The march was called by Catalonia's two main grassroots independence groups under the slogan "Freedom for the political prisoners," after their leaders were remanded in custody on charges of sedition last month.

Widening ripples ?

The push for independence by the pro-separatist officials has plunged Spain into political crisis.

It has also caused concern in the European Union, which fears knock-on effects among its member states if Catalonia pursues a course toward secession and has backed Rajoy's government in its actions against the region.

Puigdemont miffed at lack of EU support

Eight members of the sacked Catalan Cabinet are currently detained and facing charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. A further six officials charged with similar offenses were granted bail this week by Spain's Supreme Court.

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four ex-ministers, meanwhile, remain in self-imposed exile in Brussels, where they are awaiting a hearing on possible extradition back to Spain after Madrid issued a European arrest warrant for them.

Puigdemont and his aides say they are staying in Brussels because they fear they will not receive a fair trial in Spain.

New regional elections called by Madrid are to be held on December 21.

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