"Since they could not decapitate separatism, they are trying to do it through the courts", Roser Urgelles, a 59-year-old teacher, told AFP at the protest. Sanchez and Cuixart may face up to 30 years in prison on rebellion charges.
ACCORDING to police figures 315,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona today (Sunday) to demand the release of the Catalan leaders now in prison in Spain.
Like thousands of others at the march, she wore a yellow ribbon to show solidarity with the jailed leaders, whom Catalan separatists consider to be "political prisoners".
The regional chapters of Spain's two leading labour unions, along with other civil society groups, supported the protest despite the complaints from some members who don't want secession for Catalonia.
Hundreds of buses brought protesters from across the wealthy northeastern region of Spain to Barcelona, the Catalan capital, for the march.
"But it is not a separatist protest".
Former president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont tweeted his support for the demonstration from Germany, where he was arrested last month on an worldwide warrant. "The interpretation of the references to "Catalonia as a nation" and to "the national reality of Catalonia" in the preamble of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia have no legal effect", the constitutional court had decreed.
They are also accused of mobilising thousands of pro-independence supporters to prevent police from stopping the October 1 independence referendum from going ahead.
Alex de Ferrer, a 50-year-old IT specialist, said he'planned to take part in the protest because jailing separatist leaders "only serves to manufacture separatists".
However, Spanish authorities declared the plebiscite illegal and launched a crackdown on the pro-independence movement. Jordi Sanchez was among those elected in the December elections in Catalonia which saw a renewed, if slight, majority for the separatists.
Nine Catalan politicians are now awaiting trial for their role in an attempt by the wealthy region to gain independence from Spain past year. Catalonia has been put under Madrid's direct rule since then, with the region's new leader to be elected on May 22. The poll surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.