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Catalan leader urges Spain to start talks on self-determination

AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

By Joan Faus
Catalonia's regional government leader called on Madrid on Tuesday to open talks on self-determination for the restive Spanish region after days of at-times violent protests over jail sentences for nine separatist leaders.

"No one will ever bar this country from continuing to advance in line with what its citizens want ... We will always defend the right of self-determination in Catalonia," the pro-independence leader, Quim Torra, told a news conference.

Proponents of Catalan secession from Spain often use the term "self-determination" to refer to being able to vote on the matter and subsequently act on that vote.

The wealthy northeastern region was rocked by seven consecutive nights of protests after nine Catalan separatist leaders were convicted of sedition for leading a failed 2017 bid for independence that included holding a banned referendum.

The atmosphere has calmed down since Sunday but the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), an umbrella group of different organisations, called another rally in central Barcelona for Tuesday evening.

Spain's main parties have consistently rejected calls for an independence referendum and acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spurned Mr Torra during a quick visit to Catalonia on Monday, accusing him of failing in his duty to restore order and condemn protest violence.

Mr Torra urged Mr Sanchez on Tuesday "to initiate a dialogue without which the Catalan government will defend its right to self-determination".

The unrest has been a challenge for Mr Sanchez, who faces a repeat parliamentary election next month, but also for the pro-independence regional authorities based in Barcelona.

Mr Torra said Mr Sanchez's refusal to meet him or pick up his calls in the past four days was a "sign of scorn", but that he would continue trying to speak to the premier.

Reiterating his stance that he condemns "all violence", Mr Torra called for a Catalan parliamentary commission to look into the police response to the riots to determine responsibility. (Reuters)

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