Spain Arrests 9 in Catalonia on Suspicion of Plotting Violence

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The Spanish police arrested on Monday nine activists linked to pro-Catalan independence groups on suspicion they may have been preparing to commit violent acts, possibly with explosives, and Spanish prosecutors called for rebellion and terrorism charges to be leveled against them.

A statement from the Guardia Civil, the Spanish national police, said the operation in Barcelona Province was part of an investigation into the Committees for the Defense of the Republic, a grass-roots organization that supports Catalonia’s independence from Spain. In the past, the group has organized street protests and blocked road and rail lines.

The police said they carried out 10 raids and seized an abundance of material and substances they believe could be used to make explosives.

If confirmed, it would be a considerable blow to Catalonia’s mainstream independence movement, which is proud of its overwhelmingly peaceful approach since it began gathering momentum in 2011.

National Court prosecutors said the raids were aimed at gathering evidence to demonstrate the C.D.R.’s “advanced preparation for terrorist acts in connection with their secessionist aims.”

The police statement gave few details, saying there was a judicial secrecy blanket order on the case.

And the police did not say when the group may have been planning the acts of violence. Major protests in Catalonia are expected in the coming weeks, when Spain’s Supreme Court issues its verdict in the trial of 12 ex-Catalan officials and activists charged for attempting to establish an independent Catalan republic in 2017.

The prosecutors said the operation was aimed at stopping expected C.D.R. activities around the anniversary of the Oct. 1, 2017, independence referendum, declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts, in Catalonia and publication of the trial verdict. They said the C.D.R.’s activities could have caused “irreparable damage given the advanced state of their preparations.”

The C.D.R. issued a statement saying the arrests and raids were a bid to “silence” them and called for protests against what they described as Spanish state repression. In response, more than 100 people gathered in the Catalan town of Sabadell and shouted insults at the police carrying out one of the raids.

Spain’s two main center-right parties welcomed the police operation while two Catalan pro-independence parties demanded that the caretaker interior minister, Fernando Grande Marlaska, appear in Parliament to explain the operation.

Catalonia’s pro-independence regional president, Quim Torra, criticized the arrests.

“Repression continues to be the sole response of the Spanish state,” he tweeted. “They are trying to construct a tale of violence prior to the sentences. They won’t achieve it. The independence movement is, and always will be, pacific.”

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