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Catalan separatists free pending sedition probe

© AFP/File | Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero's force was accused of failing to rein in the protesters

MADRID (AFP) - 

Catalonia's police chief and two prominent separatist leaders avoided being remanded in custody at a court hearing Friday over sedition accusations linked to the region's independence bid.

The court summons raised tensions in Spain's volatile political conflict, but despite the gravity of the accusations the court did not issue a custodial order that could have further escalated the dispute.

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, leaders of Catalonia's two biggest pro-independence civil groups, and regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero walked free from the preliminary hearing at the National Court in Madrid.

A court official told AFP the judge had ordered no custody or other cautionary measures against them pending an investigation into the accusations.

The two civil leaders were accused of sedition for their role in unrest during protests in Barcelona last month.

The unrest broke out on September 20 when national security forces raided regional government offices in a crackdown against the independence drive.

Protesters damaged Civil Guard police vehicles and stopped officers from leaving the building they were searching.

Trapero's force was accused of failing to rein in the protesters.

Cuixart told reporters after Friday's hearing that he denied the charge of sedition but had declined to make a statement to the judge "because I do not recognise the jurisdiction of this court concerning the crime that we are accused of."

He accused the Spanish state of using the courts to try to settle "a political conflict."

"We are convinced that sooner rather than later the Spanish state will have to sit down for a dialogue" with the Catalan regional government, he said.

The government says it will not join in any talks or accept mediation until the Catalans abandon their independence drive.

Sanchez said that he had defended before the judge "the legitimacy of a peaceful and non-violent demonstration."

© 2017 AFP