Protesters blocked streets across Catalonia to demand freedom of jailed pro-independence politicians

Protesters blocked roads across Catalonia this morning during a strike to demand the freedom of jailed pro-independence politicians and activists, writes

One group forced the closure of a busy route near Barcelona by burning tires, while other demonstrators halted traffic on several main highways with human chains or wooden pallets.

Around 50 roads including two motorways as well as several train lines were said to have been affected by breakfast time today as police and demonstrators clashed across Catalonia.

Picketers who stopped traffic on the motorway at San Juan Despi, half an hour's drive west of Barcelona, unfurled a huge banner which said: 'Sorry for the Inconvenience. Catalan Republic under construction.'

Protesters on the motorway at nearby St Boi de Llobregat forced traffic to a halt by setting light to tires they had laid across the carriageway.

Drivers trying to get to work reacted to the road closures by tooting their horns continuously, adding to the chaos affecting the region.

Some train lines were also targeted, the most high-profile incident happening as 600 people entered the high-speed AVE railway station in deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont's home city of Girona to interrupt traffic during rush hour.

There were no reports of any problems at Barcelona's El Prat airport this morning, although getting into and out of the Catalan capital was said to be difficult. Catalan transport chiefs advised the public to leave their cars at home. 

The strike has been called by a pro-independence union to protest at the jailing of sacked members of the Catalan government, the continued incarceration of the leaders of two pro-independence grassroots movements and the Spanish government's imposition of direct rule.

Jordi Cuixart, leader of Catalan group Omnium Cultural, and Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly were remanded in prison last month after they were quizzed by a judge on suspicion of sedition.

Eight former members of Puigdemont's deposed Catalan government, including ex vice-president Oriol Junqueras, are also in jail awaiting trial on similar charges, after it was ruled they were too much of a flight risk to be released on bail.

Puigdemont on the other hand, remains in Brussels, where he and four other ex-ministers are trying to persuade the EU to get involved in the Catalan dispute.

All five fled to Belgium last week and - along with the eight ex-ministers in jail - face charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of public trust for organising an illegal independence referendum on October 1 and later proclaiming a Catalan republic.

Madrid has issued an arrest warrant against Puigdemont, but a Brussels court ruled on Monday he could remain at liberty in Belgium until it had decided whether he should be extradited.

Today, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Micheldenied his government was in 'crisis' over the arrival and possible subsequent extradition of Puigdemont.

The issues surrounding the Catalan bid for independence risks reigniting Belgian communal tensions, and Flemish separatist members of the coalition government has spoken out in support of Puigdemont.

'There is a political crisis in Spain and not in Belgium,' Michel told the Belgian parliament Wednesday.  

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