Rally in Barcelona to demand the release of jailed separatist leaders

Pro-independence supporters attend a demonstration in Barcelona Spain

Spain's justice minister, Rafael Catala, has called the use of yellow ribbons "insulting", arguing that Spain has no political prisoners but "politicians in prison".

At the cry of 'Freedom for political prisoners, ' one of the most said slogans by the participants, the march was seconded by representatives of Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana, the two largest groups in favor of the rupture with Spain.

On October 1, Catalonia held an independence referendum, during which the vast majority of voters backed the region's secession from Spain.

The involvement of the Catalan branches of the Worker's Commissions and General Workers' Union was not universally endorsed as some members oppose the region's secession.

"But it is not a separatist protest".

The Catalan sections of CC.OO. and UGT defended their attendance to the mobilization, after considering that the serious dispute in the rich autonomous community of 7.5 million inhabitants must be resolved through dialogue and politics and not in the courts.

Former leader Carles Puigdemont, who was arrested last month on a Spanish-issued arrest warrant as he entered Germany, walked out of prison last week after a court in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein agreed to release him on bail.

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Many protesters chanted "Puigdemont, president!"

Supreme court judge Pablo Llarena refused last week to release him from jail and he faces up to 25 years on charges of rebellion.

Puigdemont is also accused of misuse of public funds for staging an independence referendum in Catalonia on October 1 despite it having been ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

Among the politicians facing charges of rebellion is Jordi Sanchez, the latest candidate put forward by Catalan politicians to become leader of the region.

Prosecutors say the two men played central roles in orchestrating pro-independence protests in September in Barcelona during which national police were trapped inside a government building for several hours and their vehicles were destroyed. Jordi Sanchez was among those elected in the December elections in Catalonia which saw a renewed, if slight, majority for the separatists.

If a new leader in Catalonia is not elected by May 22, new regional elections will be held.

In a letter sent from prison, former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras said that immediately forming a government was "a necessity" so that Catalonia could regain its political autonomy.

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