Catalans rally for release of jailed leaders

Catalans rally for release of jailed leaders

Six other Catalan politicians who had been jailed with Junqueras since early November were released late Monday after the posting of 100,000-euro ($118,000) bail set earlier for them by a Supreme Court judge.

He will now campaign in a polarised regional election from a jail near Madrid.

Spain's Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had withdrawn an global arrest warrant for Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members saying the politicians had shown willingness to return to Spain. He escaped there, claiming he would not get a fair trial at home, after his region's parliament declared independence on October 27.

He said Belgium could reject some of the reasons behind the warrant, which could affect and possibly reduce the charges brought against Puigdemont and the four others, and create inequalities with those back in Spain who would be probed on the full charges. They have committed in court to abide by Spanish law. The investigating judge had chose to place them under house arrest. But Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena said Monday that it remains to be seen if Junqueras' pledge was "truthful and real".

Mr Junqueras and the other jailed politicians pledged last week to give up on efforts to seek unilateral independence for the wealthy northeastern region, in the hope of being freed.

That is one week before the elections, in which Puigdemont is leading his pro-independence party's ticket as its presidential candidate.

Until Monday, most analysts estimated that all secessionist politicians would be released.

"The hope is that this will keep separatist voters mobilised, as low turnout motivated by exhaustion with the pro-independence process is the main fear of separatist parties", he added.

Former Catalonian vice-president Oriol Junqueras, former cabinet member Joaquim Forn and two leaders of civic groups ANC and Omnium Cultural, faced with charges of sedition, have been refused bail, Spain's Supreme Court said on Monday.

However, the vote is shaping up as a plebiscite between those for and against independence, with polls predicting a close race.

The likely kingmaker according to the polls will be En Comu, the alliance made up by far-left party Podemos and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, which according to the CIS poll would capture nine seats.

Puigdemont launched his campaign last month from Brussels with a flurry of high-profile media appearances and a demand that he be returned as the "legitimate" president of Catalonia.

Twelve of the 13 members of the sacked Catalan government are standing in the election, with Puigdemont and Junqueras competing to head the separatist camp.

The conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked an unprecedented constitutional power to suspend Catalan autonomy and dismiss its leaders.