Seven Catalan activists sent to jail over terrorism charges - source

MADRID (Reuters) - Seven Catalan activists were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and possessing explosives and jailed on Thursday pending further investigation, a source in Spain’s high court said.

The seven were arrested on Monday. Prosecutors allege they were planning violent acts in the coming weeks to seek independence for their region.

It was not immediately possible to contact any of them or any lawyers representing them.

Two of the seven have told investigators they were making and testing explosives, another source linked to the investigation said on Thursday.

The judge considered there are indications “the seven detained belong to an ... organization that intends to establish the Catalan republic by any means, including violent ones”, the first source said.

The judge decided to send them to preventative custody without bail on suspicion of “belonging to a terrorist organization, making and owning explosives and conspiring to cause criminal damage,” the source said, adding that the judge had considered jailing them necessary considering the gravity of the charges and the risk that they could destroy evidence.

Any use of explosives by supporters of Catalan secession would mark a sharp change in tactics.

Catalan separatism has posed a major challenge for Spain for years and triggered the country’s biggest political crisis in decades in 2017 when the region briefly declared independence.

But campaigners have made their case through mass protests and political action, not attacks, in contrast to a Basque separatist campaign that was for decades marked by violent insurgency until ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty) ended their fight in 2018.

The second source told Reuters two of the arrested had told investigators they bought chemical components to make explosives and carried out tests in a quarry.

Investigators have a video showing some of the activists carrying out tests of the explosives, the source said.

Reuters has not seen the video.

Prosecutors allege the violent acts were planned for some time between the anniversary of Catalonia’s Oct. 1, 2017, independence referendum and the announcement of the verdict in a trial of separatist leaders in Madrid - widely expected in the first half of October.

Reporting by Ashifa Kassam, Paola Luelmo, Emma Pinedo and Elena Rodriguez; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Andrew Heavens and Alexandra Hudson