Spain: 2 Catalan separatists start hunger strike in prison

FILE - In this March 23, 2018 file photo, Catalan presidential candidate Jordi Turull walks past Spanish police officers as he arrives to the Supreme Court after a break for lunch in Madrid. Spanish authorities said on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, that Turull and Jordi Sanchez, both leaders of Catalonia’s separatist movement who have spent the last year in prison, are starting a hunger strike. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two leaders of Catalonia’s separatist movement who have spent the last year in prison started a hunger strike on Saturday to protest what they claim is the unfair treatment by Spanish courts.

Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Turull, regional lawmakers in northeastern Catalonia, said in a statement distributed by the Catalan government that “we will never give up on our right to a fair trial.”

Spain’s government responded by saying that they and other separatist leaders will be treated just like any other citizens brought before the law.

The government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a statement that “like all citizens who are subject to and protected by the rule of law, the separatist leaders will receive a fair trial.”

Sanchez and Turull are two of nine separatist leaders who are in pre-trial custody for their role in an illegal secession attempt by Catalonia’s leaders last year. Spain’s state prosecutors will pursue charges of rebellion against both, asking for sentences of 17 years for Sanchez and 16 years for Turull.

Sanchez and Turull are being held in a prison near Barcelona, the largest city in the Catalonia region.

They have been kept behind bars with authorities saying they pose a risk of continuing to push for secession and fleeing Spain like other separatist leaders, including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

The trial is expected to start in the coming months.

Catalonia’s current separatist leaders insist they won’t desist in their effort to break away from the rest of Spain.

Election results and polls show that the 7.5 million resident of the wealthy Catalonia region are roughly equally divided by the secession issue.

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