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Thousands of Catalan separatist supporters protest in Madrid

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Thousands of supporters of Catalan independence marched through central Madrid on Saturday (March 16) in protest at the ongoing trial of 12 separatist leaders who face years in prison for their role in organizing a failed independence bid from Spain in 2017.

Demonstrators, many who made the journey from the north-western Catalonia region for the protest, waved Catalan flags and carried signs reading "Self-determination is not a crime".

Catalan regional leader Quim Torra said the trial taking place at Spain's Supreme Court it's a "shame". Protesters said it's not just a matter of separatism but of democracy, as they consider Spanish justice is being unfair with their political leaders.

Protest organizers put the turnout at 120,000 while police gave a figure of 18,000.

Tensions between Madrid and Barcelona have thawed somewhat since the political crisis triggered by Catalonia's independence declaration in late 2017 but the trial of 12 separatist leaders for their role in the secession bid and events leading up to it has been one of several sticking points to derail negotiations.

The 12 are on trial in Madrid on charges ranging from rebellion to misuse of funds, which they deny.

The Catalan crisis is set to play a major role in April 28 elections, with three right-leaning parties, the conservative People's Party (PP), centre-right Ciudadanos and the relatively new far-right Vox party all calling for Spain to take a tougher position with separatists.



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