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Catalonia Spain: Barcelona Diada annual march draws smaller crowd

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Media captionCatalan national day march draws "smallest crowd" in eight years

About 600,000 people marched in Barcelona in support of Catalan independence on Wednesday, police say, one of the lowest turnouts in the eight-year history of the annual march.

The Diada is the anniversary of the city's fall to Spanish forces in 1714.

A march in Barcelona has been held on the day each year since 2012, to back Catalonia's independence from Spain.

Close to a million people hit the streets at the same march in 2018, marking a significant drop in numbers.

This year's event comes just weeks ahead of a verdict for 12 separatist politicians for their role in a banned independence vote in 2017.

Catalonia declared its independence just weeks after holding a referendum. Spain then declared direct rule over the autonomous province.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The march comes weeks before a significant court ruling on separatist politicians

Facing charges of sedition and rebellion, the men could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Thousands of blue-shirted protesters demanded the release of the separatist leaders during Wednesday's demonstrations.

Most of the protests were peaceful, although a group of demonstrators threw projectiles at riot police during clashes near the Catalan parliament.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled the country after the 2017 referendum, and is now based in Belgium.

Spain dropped European arrest warrants against him and five of his aides in July, although the charges against him remain active - meaning all six face arrest if they return.

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