Mar 17, 2019 08:53 Asia/Tehran

Thousands rally for secession in the Spanish capital Madrid, and protest at the trial of 12 separatist Catalan leaders.

Iran Press/Europe: Tens of thousands of Catalan independence supporters have marched through central Madrid in protest at the trial of 12 separatist leaders who helped organise the failed bid for independence from Spain in 2017 and to renew their call for a vote on secession, The Guardian reported.

The demonstrations were organised by two powerful civil society groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, around the slogan: "Self-determination is not a crime. Democracy is about deciding."

Hundreds of coaches were laid on to bring people to the capital from Catalonia and other parts of Spain.

The organisers said 120,000 people attended, well beyond their expectations. Spanish Police, however, put the number of marchers at about 18,000.

The rally was organised by more than 60 civil society groups from all over Spain.

Thousands rally in Madrid

Police said the march passed off largely peacefully, free of any incidents. A heavy security presence had been put in place to ensure that the event went ahead peacefully and that possible confrontations with far-right groups bitterly opposed to Catalan independence were avoided.

Many members of Catalonia’s pro-independence regional government attended the march, including the president, Quim Torra.

Torra’s predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, was not in Madrid. He was sacked by the Spanish government after organising the unilateral independence referendum in October 2017, and is living in self-imposed exile in Belgium after fleeing Spain to avoid arrest.

Twelve of the pro-independence Catalan leaders who remained in Spain are currently on trial in Madrid over their alleged roles in the events that culminated in the staging of the referendum and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence. 209/103

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