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Roads Blocked in Catalonia in Protest at Leader's Detention


Vehicles on the AP-7 highway are stuck in traffic due to a protest organized by pro-independence supporters, near Figueres, Spain, March 27, 2018.

Demonstrators angered by the detention of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont disrupted several roads in central Barcelona Tuesday, as protesters continued to wreak havoc on regional traffic, blocking main motorways and roads.

The separatist politician was in preliminary custody awaiting a northern German court's decision on an extradition request by Spain.

Transportation authorities in the northeastern Spanish region said that a main motorway through eastern Spain remained blocked by protesters in Figueres, near the border with France. Demonstrators had 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 in several roads in central Barcelona, the regional capital.

Prosperous Catalonia has been marred by largely peaceful massive 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 banned referendum received no international recognition and provoked a takeover of the regional government by Spanish authorities.

FILE - Carles Puigdemont, deposed leader of a Catalonian pro-independence party, visits the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki, March 22, 2018.
FILE - Carles Puigdemont, deposed leader of a Catalonian pro-independence party, visits the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki, March 22, 2018.

Puigdemont was ousted and fled to Belgium. Upon wrapping a probe into the events last week, a Spanish Supreme Court judge charged the 55 year-old separatist 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 Finland.

Further decisions on Puigdemont's immediate future in Germany 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 offense 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.

Spanish government spokesman, Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo, said on Tuesday that the separatist leader's fate is now in the hands of the German judiciary, but expressed confidence on the extradition because Puigdemont "is not detained for his political ideas."

"This is not just a Spanish question," Mendez de Vigo told reporters at the end of a Spanish Cabinet meeting.

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

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 now six months to respond with any information or observations to the human rights body.

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