Huge Catalan march in Brussels to ‘wake up Europe’

Pro-independence Catalans from all over Europe take part in a rally showing their support to ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his government in Brussels on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Huge Catalan march in Brussels to ‘wake up Europe’

BRUSSELS: A sea of around 45,000 pro-Catalonia protesters demonstrated in Brussels on Thursday to show support for the region’s deposed president Carles Puigdemont and urge the EU to support its drive for independence from Spain.
Demonstrators chanted “Wake up Europe!” and waved Catalonia’s red, yellow and blue Estelada separatist flag as they marched past the European Union headquarters in the Belgian capital.
“We cannot abandon our president, who is in exile here,” Antoni Llenas, 59, a protester wearing a flag over his shoulders, told AFP. “We are here to continue the struggle for our independence and to ask for the freedom of our political prisoners.”
Belgian police said on Twitter that there were an estimated 45,000 protesters, more than double the 20,000 that organizers said they originally expected. The rally began peacefully, according to AFP reporters on the scene.
Puigdemont and four former ministers fled to Brussels in November, saying they wanted to take their cause to the European level after Spain charged them with sedition and rebellion over Catalonia’s independence referendum in October.
On Monday, the Spanish government dropped a European arrest warrant for the five, but Puigdemont said he would stay put for now as they still face arrest in Spain if they return for regional polls in Catalonia that Madrid has called for Dec. 21.
Protesters arrived in a stream of coaches and camper vans with Spanish registration plates, and gathered in the Cinquantenaire Park in the city’s European quarter before the start of the march at 1030 GMT.
Children and families were among those who began the march in high spirits despite the cold and rain.
Their route is taking them past the headquarters of the European Commission and they will end up in a square between the European Council and European Parliament.
The EU has strongly backed the Spanish government over the Catalan issue, saying that it is an internal matter for Madrid.


Official: Taliban attacks kill 8 police in east Afghanistan

Updated 10 min 41 sec ago
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Official: Taliban attacks kill 8 police in east Afghanistan

KABUL: A district governor in Afghanistan says Taliban fighters launched a wave of attacks in eastern Ghazni province, killing at least eight police and wounding seven others.
Saeeb Khan Elham said Friday that insurgents launched a wave of attacks on compounds and police security posts in the Qarabagh district late the night before.
He said government forces meant to reinforce the district were attacked in a Taliban ambush that included roadside mines and were unable to help.
Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone interview with AP. He says 16 police were killed and a government compound in the district damaged.