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Catalan road and rail network disrupted in pro-independence general strike

Demonstrators block a highway during a general strike in Borrassa, near Girona, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. A worker's union has called for a general strike Wednesday in Catalonia. The regional government was sacked by Madrid and many of its members jailed in a rebellion probe after pushing ahead with secession from Spain. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Pro-independence protesters have blocked roads and stopped commuter trains on Wednesday in Spain's Catalonia region as part of a general strike to protest the jailing of ousted Catalan government officials and secessionist activists.

Many of the blockades were on roads leading to major Catalan cities, including the regional capital Barcelona, and major highways, the Catalan Transit Service said.

Disruptions affected more than 60 sections of road and highway throughout the morning.

National railway operator Renfe said services were halted on dozens of local lines as protesters blocked railway lines.

Several national high-speed lines were also affected. In northern Girona, several protesters pushed past police controls to enter the city's main railway station.

The strike was not backed by Spain's two main unions and was not reported to be having any major effect on industry or in the region's prized tourism sector.

Spanish authorities took the unprecedented step of seizing control of Catalonia, one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions, after a majority of regional MPs there ignored Constitutional Court orders and passed an independence declaration on October 27.

Spain sacked the regional government, dissolved the parliament and called a fresh regional election for next month.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said the elections should open "a new political era" in the region with the return to normality and respect for Spain's laws.

Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and four of his sacked ministers have fled to Belgium, where they are fighting Spanish arrest and extradition orders.

Eight of Mr Puigdemont's ex-ministers and two activists were sent to jail as a Spanish court studies possible charges of rebellion and sedition against them.

Intersindical CSC, a platform of pro-independence workers' unions, had called the strike for labour issues, but separatist parties and civil society groups asked workers to join the stoppage to protest against Spain's intervention.

Catalonia, with 7.5 million people, represents a fifth of Spain's gross domestic product and polls show its people are evenly divided over independence.

Mr Puigdemont claimed a banned October 1 secession referendum gave it a mandate to declare independence.

Photo: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

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