03 April 2018, The Tablet

Catalonia cardinal urges calm over detained leader

'The preventive imprisonment of Catalan politicians is a painful development'

Catalonia cardinal urges calm over detained leader

A Catalan cardinal has appealed for dialogue after at least 100 people were injured in violent protests against Germany's arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the region's former separatist leader. 

“This is a political problem which casts a shadow over relations between Spain and Catalonia,” said Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, the retired Archbishop of Barcelona. “The preventive imprisonment of Catalan politicians is a painful development, which highlights the urgent necessity of resolving the conflict here through political dialogue.” 

The 80-year-old Church leader tweeted the comments amid tensions over the continued detention of Puigdemont, who was detained in Schleswig-Holstein under an international arrest warrant while returning from Denmark to self-imposed exile in Belgium. He faces extradition to Madrid on sedition and embezzlement charges. Meanwhile, the president of Catalonia's regional Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Jaume Pujol of Tarragona, also criticised Puigdemont's arrest, noting in a brief website statement it had exacerbated the situation by making coexistence more difficult. 

Pro-independence parties won more than half the 135 seats in Catalonia's regional parliament in December elections, called by premier Mariano Rajoy's central Spanish Government in a bid to deflate secessionist demands following a unilateral October independence declaration. However, the region remains under direct rule from Madrid, while Spain's Supreme Court has rejected bail requests by Catalonia's former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, and other detained members of Puigdemont's ousted government. 

The politician's arrest in Germany sparked violent late March protests in Barcelona, and further angry demonstrations over the Easter weekend by hundreds of pro-independence Catalans in Berlin. In an audio message released over Easter, Puigdemont urged supporters to keep up the struggle for independence. The current crisis was not referred to directly by the Catalan bishops in their main Easter messages and homilies.

PICTURE: A woman wrapped in the Estelada Blava, the Catalonian nationalists' flag, in front of the Neumuenster correctional (JVA). Former Catalonia president Puigdemont is in custody in the Neumuenster correctional since his arrest on 25 March 2018. Photo: Daniel Reinhardt/dpa

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