Protests broke out in Barcelona Sunday after news that Catalonia’s former separatist leader Carles Puigdemont had been detained in Germany.
The ex-president of Spain’s northern Catalonia region is being held at a police station in Germany, according to a tweet from his lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas.
Puigdemont was en route to Belgium from Finland and was detained after crossing the border from Denmark. German police said in a statement that Puigdemont was arrested in the northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Puigdemont has lived in self-imposed exile in Belgium since October, after spearheading Catalonia’s referendum on whether to secede from Spain.
The independence drive plunged the country into its worst political crisis in decades, with Madrid denouncing the referendum as illegal and calling for Puigdemont’s arrest.
Spanish authorities accuse Puigdemont of rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds over his role in the referendum, in which 90% of voters were in favor of a split from Madrid.
However voter turnout was low – around 42% – and Catalan authorities blamed the figure on the election day crackdown initiated by the national government.
Thousands protest, state TV reports
Thousands of pro-independence protesters took part in demonstrations in Barcelona, carrying Catalonian flags and banners with slogans emblazoned across them, state media outlet RTVE reported on its website. Crowds were heading for the office of the European Commission on Sunday evening.
Footage posted on social media shows crowds meeting with police wearing helmets, but the protests appeared to be peaceful.
A spokesman for the Catalonian police said one protester was arrested after launching an object against police.
A spokesman for the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, later said four people were arrested during the demonstrations, and the Catalan Emergency Services said about 50 people received medical attention for mild injuries.