Catalan separatists in massive Barcelona protest

Carme Forcadell
Updated 11 November 2017
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Catalan separatists in massive Barcelona protest

MADRID: A protest was held in Barcelona Saturday calling for the release of jailed separatist leaders, the day after pro-independence Catalan parliamentarian Carme Forcadell was freed on bail.
Separatists had called on supporters to match the annual turn-out of Catalonia’s national day.
Forcadell, the sacked speaker of Catalonia’s Parliament, left a prison near Madrid on Friday hours after supporters posted her bail of €150,000 ($175,000), ending her brief detention.
A judge at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Thursday had ordered Forcadell to be held on charges of “rebellion” — which carries a maximum jail term of 30 years — as Spain’s worst political crisis in a generation rumbles on.
She was one of several dismissed Catalan officials to be detained after their shock decision last month to declare the region of 7.5 million people independent from Spain.
Forcadell appeared at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Thursday along with five former Catalan lawmakers.
The others were given a temporary reprieve by the judge, who said they must pay €25,000 each within a week or be detained.
Acting judge Pablo Llarena said his decision to grant bail was made after they either “renounced all future political activity” or agreed to respect the law, according to a court document.
The Catalan crisis has caused shock waves across the EU, prompting nearly 2,400 businesses to move their legal headquarters and re-register outside of the wealthy northeastern region.
Lawmakers opted to split from Spain, claiming they had a mandate after a referendum on Oct. 1 in which 90 percent of voters backed secession.
But less than half of the electorate took part in a vote denounced as illegitimate by Madrid, and Catalans themselves remain deeply split over whether their region should break away from the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.
After the declaration, Madrid dismissed Catalonia’s government, dissolved Parliament, suspended the region’s autonomy and called new elections for the region next month.


Eritrea responds to Ethiopia PM’s olive branch

Updated 11 min 31 sec ago
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Eritrea responds to Ethiopia PM’s olive branch

ADDIS ABABA: Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is dispatching a delegation to Addis Ababa for “constructive engagement” with arch-foe Ethiopia after peace overtures this month from its new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a senior Eritrean diplomat said on Wednesday.
Isais made the annoucement — a potentially significant breakthrough in one of Africa’s most protracted conflicts — earlier on Wednesday, Eritrea’s ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, said on Twitter. He gave no further details.
Eritrean information minister Yemane Ghebremeskel did not respond to requests for comment.
Eritrea and Ethiopia remain bitter foes after a 1998-2000 conflict that drew comparisons to the First World War, with waves of conscripts forced to march through minefields toward Eritrean trenches, where they were cut down by machine gun fire.
Casuality figures are disputed in both countries although most estimates suggest 50,000 Ethiopian soldiers died, against 20,000 on the Eritrean side.
Even after the end of the war, the border remains heavily militarised and disputed, most notably the town of Badme which was part of Eritrea, according to a 2002 international arbitration ruling.
Since then, Addis has ignored the ruling and refused to pull out troops or officials, to the fury of Asmara.
However, Abiy, a 41-year-old former soldier who has embarked on a radical economic and political reform drive since taking over in March, stunned Ethiopians this month when he said Addis would honor all the terms of the settlement between the two countries, suggesting he was prepared to cede Badme.
In parliament this week, Abiy also acknoewledged the tensions continued to inflict a heavy economic cost on both countries and said Addis should no longer hide this price tag from the Ethiopian people, another stunning departure with the past.
There has so far been no official response to Abiy’s overtures from Eritrea, one of the Africa’s most closed states.