Three Catalan independence leaders jailed over their role in the Spanish region's independence vote are appealing to the United Nations. They argue their imprisonment is unlawful.
Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart have lodged their case with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, their lawyers said Thursday.
"Their detention by Spain is an affront to human rights, designed to prevent them from performing their role as political representatives of the Catalan people," lawyer Ben Emmerson said at a press conference.
The trio is serving a custodial prison sentence in Madrid for launching a secession bid in northeastern Catalonia.
Lawyer: 'Spain must release these men'
Sanchez and Cuixart, who both belong to separatist groups, have been accused of sedition. Junqueras, the deposed Catalan vice president, is being investigated for his role in the independence drive.
"This case does not ask the UN to adjudicate on the issue of Catalan independence but seeks the UN's reaffirmation that governments cannot repress political dissent through arbitrary detention," Emmerson told reporters. "Spain must release these men."
The lawyer argued the charges were "purely political" and could "set a dangerous precedent."
The little-known UN panel has addressed hundreds of human rights cases involving prominent figures such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi. The group's decisions are not considered binding.
Puigdemont in exile
Catalonia declared it would split from Spain following an October referendum on independence that was declared illegal by the central government. Madrid then sacked the regional administration, dissolved its parliament, and called for fresh elections in December. The vote saw separatist parties retain their parliamentary majority.
Catalan's parliament on Tuesday postponed a vote to choose the region's next president, prolonging uncertainty surrounding the formation of a new regional government.
Former President Carles Puigdemont is currently in exile in Belgium and has been threatened with arrest if he returns to Spain.
nm/kms (Reuters, AFP)