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.


Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

Updated 22 October 2018
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Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

  • The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody
  • Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption

MANILA: A Philippine judge rejected on Monday an effort by President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest one of his fiercest critics, a decision hailed by opponents as a check on the leader and a victory for the rule of law.
The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody on charges for which the lawmaker had already been granted amnesty.
Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption and his son of involvement in drug dealing.
"We wish to thank Judge Andres Soriano who has singlehandedly upheld justice and the rule of law in the country despite extreme pressure coming from the Duterte regime," a beaming Trillanes told reporters.
The order for Trillanes' arrest stems from the president voiding in September an amnesty granted eight years ago to the senator, an ex-navy officer, for his role in two coup attempts in the mid-2000s.
Duterte alleged the lawmaker did not complete the requirements of filing an official application and admitting guilt, but Monday's ruling threw out those arguments.
However, this decision is unlikely to be the final word on this case. The Philippines' top court is weighing the constitutional questions posed by Duterte's amnesty revocation and the government all but pledged to appeal.
"This is not the end. Nobody has to claim total victory here," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters. "This may be subject to review by the higher courts."
Monday's news came as Trillanes was on bail over another military uprising case that was revived by Duterte revoking the lawmaker's amnesty.
His arrest last month in that case made Trillanes the second senator critical of Duterte's drug war to be detained. Leila de Lima has been behind bars since February 2017 on charges she says were concocted to silence her.
Human Rights Watch called Monday's decision a temporary victory for rule of law in the Philippines.
"The Duterte administration's campaign is designed to silence Trillanes," HRW researcher Carlos Conde told AFP.
"We expect it (the government) to continue, even ramp up, this political harassment and intimidation," he added.
Trillanes had faced rebellion and coup d'etat charges for being among military officers who rose up against then president Gloria Arroyo over alleged corruption and mismanagement.
He led scores of junior officers in taking over part of a main district of Manila in 2003 and seized a posh Manila hotel in 2007 along with several armed followers as they demanded Arroyo's resignation.