Catalan leader calls for mediation with Spain over independence
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The Catalan president has called for international help in tackling its independence dispute with Spain, saying Europe cannot continue to ignore the issue after almost 900 people were injured during the police crackdown on the referendum.

“The European commission must encourage international mediation,” Carles Puigdemont said on Monday. “It cannot look the other way any longer.”

At least 893 people and 33 police officers were reported to have been hurt on Sunday. After the riot police stormed polling stations, dragging out voters and firing rubber bullets into crowds.

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Puigdemont’s government has claimed that 90% of those who took part voted for independence, but the Catalan leader’s call for mediation could suggest a shift in strategy as he had previously said that independence would be declared within 48 hours of a victory for the yes campaign.

Puigdemont said on Sunday night that the referendum results would be put before the regional parliament “where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum”.

The European commission has so far declined to intervene in what it has described as an internal Spanish matter and has urged both sides to “move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue”.

In a statement, it said: “Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.”

A statement from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he had backed the “constitutional unity of Spain” in a telephone call with Rajoy.

Much of Catalonia was brought to a standstill for 10 minutes at midday on Monday in protest at the police violence.

Squares were occupied and roads blocked as crowds chanted “Independence!” The Barcelona metro stopped briefly and the Plaça Sant Jaume, the seat of the Barcelona city council and the Catalan government, was packed with protesters.

Jordi Cuixart, the leader of the pro-independence group Òmnium Cultural, told the crowd that a general strike called for Tuesday was “the best response the Catalan people can make to the attacks on us yesterday and in recent weeks”.

FC Barcelona said it would take part in the strike, adding that it would close its headquarters and that none of its professional or youth teams would train.

The police operation was criticized by the UN high commissioner for human rights, who said he had been “very disturbed” by the violence in Catalonia.

“With hundreds of people reported injured, I urge the Spanish authorities to ensure thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said. “Police responses must at all times be proportionate and necessary.”

Hussein asked Spain to immediately accept requests for UN human rights monitors to visit the country.

Puigdemont urged the Spanish government to withdraw the national police and Guardia Civil officers who had been deployed to prevent the referendum. He also announced that his government would create a commission to examine human rights violations.


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