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Two Catalan pro-independence leaders held in jail for sedition probe

Jordi Cuixart, president of the Catalan Omnium Cultural organization, left, and Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly wave to supporters on arrival at the national court in Madrid, Spain, in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Two senior Catalan regional police force officers and the leaders of two pro-independence associations are in court again, facing possible sedition charges related to the staging of the region's banned Oct. 1 secession referendum. The sedition case is investigating the roles of the four in Sept. 20-21 demonstrations in Barcelona as Spanish police arrested several Catalan officials and raided offices in a crackdown on referendum preparations (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A Spanish judge has ordered two leaders of Catalonia's pro-independence movement jailed while they are investigated on possible charges of sedition.

The judge jailed Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly and Jordi Cuixart of the Omnium Cultural group after questioning them and two senior law enforcement officials.

The National Court in Madrid is investigating the roles the four played during demonstrations in Barcelona on September 20-21.

Spanish police arrested several Catalan officials and raided offices on those dates as part of the central government's crackdown on preparations for an October 1 referendum on Catalan independence.

Earlier on Monday, the judge ruled that Catalan regional police chief Major Josep Lluis Trapero and colleague Lieutenant Teresa Laplana could remain free under several conditions, including surrendering their passports and agreeing to appear in court every two weeks.

The Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural have called for people across Catalonia to halt work at noon on Tuesday to protest over the jailing of the two men.

Both groups have been pivotal to the Catalan movement to secede from Spain and have drawn thousands of people to demonstrations in support of independence.

Protests at the headquarters of the national government's representatives in the Catalan provincial capitals are scheduled for Tuesday evening.


In a separate development yesterday, Spain's deputy prime minister said Catalonia's leader did not give an adequate response in his letter about the region's independence and has until Thursday to comply with the country's laws.

Carles Puigdemont's letter, issued two hours before a Monday deadline, did not clarify whether he in fact declared Catalonia's independence from Spain.

He called for talks with Spain's government.

Spain's central government wanted a simple "yes" or "no" answer from Sr Puigdemont, something that Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that he did not provide.

Sra Saenz de Santamaria said in an address to reporters that "it wasn't very difficult to say yes or no.

"That was the question that was asked and the response shouldn't be complicated."

She said he has until Thursday morning to fall in line, or faces the possibility of Spain activating Article 155 of the Constitution which would allow the central government to take over parts of Catalonia's self-governance.

She said Sr Puigdemont's call for dialogue is "not credible" and that Spain's national parliament is the place to talk.

Sr Puigdemont had called for dialogue with Madrid and asked for meeting with the country's prime minister Mariano Rajoy, complying with a Monday deadline to respond to a request from the central government to state explicitly whether he had declared independence.

But Sr Puigdemont's letter, released about two hours before the deadline was set to expire, did not clarify whether he indeed had proclaimed that Catalonia had broken away from Spain.

Sr Puigdemont replied with a four-page letter seeking two months of negotiations and mediation.

"The priority of my government is to intensively seek a path to dialogue," Sr Puigdemont said in his letter.

"We want to talk ... Our proposal for dialogue is sincere and honest."

Spain has repeatedly said that it is not willing to sit down with Sr Puigdemont if calls for independence are on the table, or accept any form of international mediation.

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