Quitting Iran deal would ruin 12yrs’ work, threaten nuclear war – rep for Nobel Peace Prize-winner

Washington’s threats to walk out of the Iran nuclear deal is a critical moment for global nuclear non-proliferation, as it risks uprooting over a decade of diplomatic work and bring the world on the verge of a nuclear war, Jean-Marie Collin of ICAN France told RT.

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U.S. President Donald Trump © Joshua Roberts

Collin, coordinator of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for France, which was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, told RT he believes the US is putting the world’s safety in jeopardy by threatening to quit the nuclear deal.

Defending the agreement, Collin argued that no deal could possibly please all sides, as the ability to compromise lies in the nature of every agreement.

“Maybe it’s not the best agreement that we obtained, but you know, an agreement is never the best,” he said, adding that the deal should be considered a success as it reduces the chances of a major nuclear conflict breaking out.

“The important fact is that we arrived [there] after 12 years of diplomatic work, we did not have any war, we did not have any conflict with Iran and the rest of the world,” Collin said.

The deal stuck between Iran and the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany in 2015 should not be a subject to revision, as it would undermine the result of a decades-long negotiation process, Collin said, saying “the deal is the deal.”

“You cannot ask to revise the deal,” he stressed, pointing out that it will be possible to renegotiate some of the provisions only after they expire in 2025, but not before.

READ MORE: Intl Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons wins Nobel Peace Prize

“Maybe some state will want to add some new paragraphs, some new rules, it’s a possibility we cannot deny just now 10 years before,” he said.

Meanwhile, the statements by US President Donald Trump leave the deal’s fate hanging in the balance, Collin argued, as after Washington withdraws, Tehran will follow the suit.

“It’s a really important moment of these times, because we have two presidents, one from a democratic country, one from an authoritarian country, who are apparently ready to use nuclear weapons and it points to the fact that nuclear weapons are not safe either in good hands or in bad hands,” the activist said.

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A man looks at Iranian-made missiles at Holy Defence Museum in Tehran © Raheb Homavandi

The ongoing war of words between the Iranian and the US governments and mutual threats to quit the deal, might indeed pose a risk to the entire world’s security if hostilities reach a boiling point.

“The problem is we are on a limit to have escalations,” Collin said, adding that “If there’s an accident that gets to war, we are going to have international problems across the world. All countries would be touched by this possible nuclear war.”

The only way to avert the catastrophic scenario of all-out nuclear warfare is to engage in negotiations, Collin said, noting that Russia and China should assume a leading role in this process taking into account the US’s bellicose rhetoric on the issue of late.

“We should engage in diplomatic action with Russia and China, who are key major players in these problems… For sure, it’s important that these countries make some proposals because for the moment we have no real proposal on the table from the United States.”

On Monday, Trump doubled down on his threat to withdraw from the landmark deal, saying that its “total termination” is “a very real possibility.”

It comes just several days after Trump did not recertify the nuclear deal before Congress, sparking an international outcry. The move means that now the Congress must decide within 60 days whether to impose sanctions on Iran, which were lifted as part of the agreement in exchange for Iran significantly curbing its nuclear program.

Iran insists that it does not possess nuclear weapons and doesn’t pursue the goal of developing them.

The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has repeatedly attested to Iran’s full compliance with the deal, while Washington keeps accusing Tehran of violating the spirit of the deal by conducting missile tests.

However, the Iranian government argued that the missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads and that its military program is exclusively defensive in nature.

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Nuclear war may break out any moment, says N. Korean UN envoy

North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador has warned the UN General Assembly that the crisis on the Korean Peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment.”

Kim In-ryong said North Korea is the only country in the world subjected to “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat” by the US, AP reports.

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© Sergey Guneev

He accused Washington of hatching a “secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership” and defended his country’s nuclear arsenal, at the heart of the crisis, as being for self-defense.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly’s disarmament committee, he insisted that nukes are Pyongyang’s “precious strategic asset that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything,” a line that other North Korean officials have voiced almost word-for-word before.

Also in line with the North’s previous rhetoric, he warned that “the entire US mainland is within our firing range and if the US dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe.”

At the same time Kim claimed that “the DPRK consistently supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the efforts for denuclearization of the entire world.” But not before the US renounces its nuclear arsenal.

READ MORE: US pushed N. Korea to create H-bomb – Pyongyang official

“Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the US is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances,” he said.

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FILE PHOTO: South Korean navy vessels conduct a military drill © South Korean Navy

Despite round upon round of international economic sanctions, North Korea has been winding up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs with regular test blasts and launches.

On Monday, Russia joined the UN sanctions regime as President Vladimir Putin signed a 40-page decree restricting economic, scientific and technological cooperation with the North and identify 11 North Korean individuals linked to its nuclear program.

The EU also adopted a new range of sanctions to punish Pyongyang for its “continued and accelerated nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs.”

The US, meanwhile, has kicked off five-day naval exercises together with South Korea, in the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has denounced the drills as provocative, and recently renewed its threats of a missile strike at the US Territory of Guam.

READ MORE: ‘Until first bomb drops’: Tillerson vows to continue diplomatic efforts on N. Korea

Washington and Pyongyang have been trading threats and verbal blows for months now, some of the most recent including US President Trump calling the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man…on a suicide mission” and receiving the label of “mentally-deranged US dotard” in return.

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Dramatic moment Iraqi forces enter Kurdish Kirkuk, captured by RT (VIDEO)

An RT Arabic crew has been on the frontline in Kirkuk and managed to film dramatic scenes showing the very moments the Iraqi military forced its way into the Kurdish-controlled city Monday.

The exclusive footage brought by RT Arabic correspondent Bzurk Muhammad shows tanks and armored personnel carriers roaming the empty Kirkuk roads while brandishing red, black and green Iraqi flags. As they stream deeper into the city, thick white smoke starts filling the air. Men armed with rifles can be seen firing shots in the direction of the procession from a sidewalk, sparking panic among the onlookers.

As the Iraqi forces were preparing to take over, many of the locals opted to flee Kirkuk as it turned into a battle zone.

“Half the Kirkuk residents have left the city, worried because of the confrontation between the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish forces. The residents are fleeing into Kurdistan’s other provinces and demanding the war and hostilities in Kirkuk be stopped,” Peshtivan Ahmad, a local resident, told RT.

With Kirkuk split between a Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, there were those who rejoiced at the sight of the Iraqi Army taking control over the city.

“Where are Asayish [Kurdish intelligence agency] and Peshmerga?! They have abandoned the city. We are calling on the Iraqi government to hold corrupt officials and crooks who squandered Kirkuk’s budget accountable,” Sheikh Emad Fili, a local resident, told RT.

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Iraqi army members advance in military vehicles in Kirkuk, Iraq October 16, 2017 © Reuters

The lack of concerted response to the Iraqi forces’ invasion from the Kurdish militias highlighted the discord between different Kurdish factions, as some of the militias were reported to leave Kirkuk and others stayed to face off with the Iraqi forces.

Iraqi Army soldier Ahmad Hussaine told Muhammad that the troops have been on a hunt for Peshmerga fighters who might be still holing up in the city.

“Thank God, our combat spirit is very high,” Hussaine said, adding that the Iraqi forces have been combing the terrain in search for Kurdish fighters since Sunday.

“Some eight Peshmerga fighters were killed at the beginning. And since then we haven’t found anyone,” he said, noting that although there have been other instances of clashes with Peshmerga, they have not resulted in casualties.

“They tried to resist. They opened fire at us, but no one was hurt.”

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Israel approves first new settlement in UNESCO-protected Hebron in 15 years

Israel has approved 31 new settlement homes in the city of Hebron in the West Bank for the first time in 15 years.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank and is home to a population of about 1,000 Israeli settlers who live in the middle of the Old City.

The new houses will be built for the Beit Romano settlement on what used to be a bus station on Shuhada Street. The Civil Administration’s Licensing Subcommittee approved the permits, but said they are subject to conditions, including appeal, the Times of Israel reports.

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A general view shows a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank December 22, 2016. © Baz Ratner

The Times of Israel and the Jewish Press report the approval was seen as an Israeli response to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) recent decision to list Hebron’s Old City as an “endangered Palestinian World Heritage Site.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved a number of new settlements this year. The building of settlements on land in the Palestinian Territories is perceived as an obstacle to the peace process and is considered a violation of article 49 of the Geneva Convention.

Settlement advocates say even though there has been a number of announcements of new settlement construction, only a fraction may actually be built in the end, Reuters reports.

“The permits approved today would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by 20 percent,” Hagit Ofran of Israeli Peace Now told RT. “They required significant legal acrobatics that might not stand the test of the High Court of Justice. While doing everything in his power to please a small group of settlers, Netanyahu is harming Israel’s morality and image abroad, while crushing basic values of human rights and dignity.”

“We thank the prime minister, government ministers, Knesset members and all public figures who worked with determination and dedication together with us to promote this construction,” the Jewish community of Hebron said in a statement, the Jewish News reports. “We ask everyone to ensure that the construction is indeed carried out without delay.”

The last time settlements were approved in Hebron was in 2002, when 10 units were built in Tel Rumeida.

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France to slap fines on street harassers as part of new bill

France is to introduce a new bill to tackle sexual harassment and violence. It will seek to define street harassment and make it a punishable offence, and increase protections for minors.

“Street harassment is not characterized in the law,” Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa told RTL. “We cannot currently file a complaint for street harassment.”

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© Luke MacGregor

Schiappa has proposed fines for those who sexually harass people on the streets. Politicians will work with police, legal professionals and psychologists to determine what behavior can be defined as being sexual harassment.

“The idea is that society as a whole redefines what it is acceptable or not,” she told La Croix newspaper.

“We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street,” she added.

Police will be trained to look out for harassment and deliver fines, RTL reports.

“I think we have to be in an amount that can be paid immediately but not ridiculous,” Schiappa said, referring to potential financial penalties.

Schiappa is working with French President Emmanuel Macron, who on Monday told TF1 that harassment could be combated by creating “simpler verbalization procedure” so that “there is an immediate response” when it occurs, RTL reports.

READ MORE: 11yo girl had ‘consensual’ sex with 28yo man, French prosecutors say citing lack of violence

The bill will also increase the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, which is currently 20 years. It will also aim to create an assumption of non-consent for minors, following a recent case in which a judge found an 11-year-old girl had consented to sex with a 28-year-old man.

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Maltese journalist who accused govt of corruption killed in car blast

One of Malta’s most prominent investigative journalists, Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been killed in a presumed car bomb attack.

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Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat © Oliver Hoslet

The 53-year-old was killed when the car she was driving exploded near her home in Bidnija, near Mosta in northern Malta, the Times of Malta reports.

The explosion took place at around 3pm local time according to Malta’s police force.

Caruana Galizia ran the hugely popular ‘Running Commentary’ blog which had a track record of highlighting scandals in the Mediterranean country.

Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, who was the focus of one of Caruana Galizia’s reports earlier this year, denounced the killing in a televised press conference.

“I condemn without reservations this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country,” he said. “Everyone knows Ms Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, as she was for others too.”

However, he said there could be “no justification… in any way” for the killing. “I will not rest before justice is done,” he added.

Malta Television reported that Caruana Galizia had filed a complaint to the police two weeks ago to say she had received threats but gave no further information.

In 2016 the blogger was named as one of Politico’s “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe.”

Maltese police have opened a murder inquiry.

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Barrels, ballots & ISIS: Why Iraq is taking back Kirkuk, and what the US will do about it

Baghdad’s military incursion into Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk shows that the carve-up of the post-Islamic State landscape in the Middle East is in full swing, and leaves the US bemoaning its repeated failure to influence the region as two of its sponsored allies face off against each other.

READ MORE: Iraqi forces taking over Kirkuk ‘a declaration of war’ – Kurdish Peshmerga

Why is Baghdad advancing against the Kurds now?

Iraqi Kurdistan, which has enjoyed de facto full autonomy from Baghdad since the end of the First Gulf War in 1991, may have overplayed its hand when it went ahead with a symbolic independence referendum on September 25, despite warnings from both regional rivals and allies, including the US.

Ninety-three percent of the voters said they endorsed a Kurdish nation state, but regional capital Erbil has provoked reprisals that Baghdad – supported by Turkey and Iran, which have their own restive Kurdish minorities – had promised in advance.

“It is my constitutional duty to work for the benefit of the citizens and to protect our national unity that came under threat of fragmentation as a result of the referendum that was organized by the Kurdish region,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said as tanks rolled towards the northern city.

“The referendum came at a time where the country is fighting against terrorism that has come in the form of ISIS [Islamic State/IS, also ISIL]. We tried to urge the Kurds not to violate the constitution and to focus on fighting ISIS, but they did not listen They chose their personal interests over Iraq’s interests.”

Is Kirkuk Kurdish?

Although it borders the recognized Kurdistan Region, it is not an official part of it, and its participation in the referendum vote was particularly infuriating for the Iraqi government. In fact, the population of the region, which numbers over 1 million people, is split between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, and some of Kirkuk city’s residents have welcomed the incoming militias, just as others have fled the city.

The region had been under increasing Kurdish control since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and particularly after 2014, when the retreat of the Iraqi Army in the face of the IS threat created a vacuum which the Kurds stepped into. In subsequent years, they had instituted various policies to solidify the Kurdish identity of the region, including incentivizing Arab families to sell up and leave.

Historically, Kurds believe that Kirkuk is a fundamental part of any future state – often referring to it as “our Jerusalem” – and still resentfully remember the policies of ‘Arabization’ in the 1960s and 70s that tried to integrate the region into Iraq, partly by bringing in sizable Arabic populations and deporting Kurds.

Is it about the oil?

While the oil contained in the ground in Kirkuk is important to both sides in the long run, tactically the impact of losing the fields is likely to be more painful for the Kurdistan Region. The 250,000 barrels per day produced in the governorate represent more than a third of the oil output of the entire Kurdish autonomy, while Iraq pumps out more than 4 million barrels daily from its other oil fields. Still, Baghdad regards the Kurds’ unwillingness to share the proceeds from the export of hydrocarbons in the past half-decade as unfair.

How have the Kurds responded to Baghdad’s offensive?

In the days prior to the invasion Kurdish politicians united in telling Baghdad that they would not declare their referendum null – a condition imposed by the government – nor give up Kirkuk, but in the past hours the surrender of the region has triggered a flood of recriminations and empty calls. The Peshmerga command said Iraq’s advance was a “declaration of war” and urged its troops to “resist and defeat” the Shiite militias who led it, while accusing one of Kurdistan’s leading parties, the PUK, of “great and historic treason” for abandoning key positions. But late on Monday, a Peshmerga commander said the retreat was “not a mistake,” noting that their forces had been “outnumbered.” Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Region, issued a face-saving statement that urged fighters to avoid confrontation, yet gave them a “green light” to fight back if they are attacked. The actual amount of violence on the ground has been reported as negligible by the Iraqis, and more substantial by the Kurds, who have said that their countrymen have been killed, and houses have been looted and burned.

What has been the US approach to mediating the conflict in its anti-IS coalition, and can it do anything?

Indecisive and ineffectual. Prior to the referendum, Washington said that it would not support Kurdistan in any conflict that might arise from its independence declaration, but waited until two days before the vote to send a letter in which it proposed a diplomatic solution – a postponement of the referendum for one year, in exchange for substantive talks – by which time it was too late.

As the conflict loomed in the past days, and eventually boiled over, the US was left to react.

“We’re not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that they are clashing. We’ve had for many years very good relationship with the Kurds, as you know. And we’ve also been on the side of Iraq,” said Donald Trump on Monday evening.

Some have expressed concern that Washington’s bête noire Iran, which has close links with the Shiite government in Baghdad, and whose forces Kurds claim are in Kirkuk, now has the upper hand in Iraq, which would represent a humiliating defeat for US foreign policy.

Other are worried that the infighting could spark a resurgence in Islamic State.

“ISIS remains the true enemy of Iraq, and we urge all parties to remain focused on finishing the liberation of their country from this menace,” read a statement from the US embassy in Baghdad.

But more likely this is a fight for the spoils of its defeat among situational allies who have lost a common enemy. More alarming than the current Islamic State threat is that Iraq once again appears to be in identical conditions to the ones in which the terrorist group appeared in the first place – riven by ethnic and sectarian divides, with a central government that is lording it over embittered minorities keen on more autonomy from it.

“Once ISIS is down and out we don’t want another terrorist group to rise up and also some of the old conditions or tensions now come back to the forefront,” acknowledged US Defense Secretary James Mattis last week in an ultimately futile warning. “We can’t turn on each other right now.”

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‘Kill Baby Hitler': Magazine’s tweet on soon-to-be Austrian Chancellor Kurz triggers terrorism probe

A Germany-based satirical magazine landed in hot water when Austrian counterterrorism authorities launched a probe into a controversial tweet, which branded Sebastian Kurz, who is set to be the next Austrian chancellor, “Baby Hitler” and urged people to “kill” him.

READ MORE: Sebastian Kurz, most talented Austrian leader since WWII, will toughen immigration laws – analysts

The tweet by the German satirical magazine Titanic came a day after the center-right People’s Party (OVP), led by the prominent Austrian politician Kurz, 31, came in first during the country’s general elections.

The tweet features a photo of Kurz with a crosshair sign over his heart and a caption reading: “Finally possible: Kill baby Hitler.” The left corner of the picture reads “Time travel in Austria” in an obvious pop-culture reference to the decades-old thought experiment on going back in time and killing Hitler before his atrocities were ever committed.

READ MORE: Rise of the right: Austria’s election results & their implications for Europe

The caption, however, obscurely addresses “Austrian Titanic subscribers,” giving a link to the magazine’s subscribe page.

The controversial picture promptly drew the attention of law enforcement. The Vienna police replied to Titanic’s tweet, stating that it had already alerted unspecified “competent authorities.”

The photo was sent for investigation to anti-terrorism units and an investigation was launched, the police told Der Standard newspaper.

The satirical magazine did not back down lightly though, jokingly replying to the police tweet and calling it “Vienna department for time travel.”

Titanic’s head editor, Tim Wolff, told the local Meedia news outlet that the strong reaction of the Austrian authorities can be explained by the country not getting over its Nazi past, unlike the Germans. The magazine has not yet been directly contacted by Austrian investigators, according to Wolff.

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Locals told to not mind armed men as 3,500 troops take part in ‘Silver Arrow’ NATO drills in Latvia

More than 3,500 troops from countries ranging from Albania to the US, UK, and Germany are taking part in Latvia’s two-week NATO Silver Arrow drills. The exercises will partly take place on private land.

The aim of the exercises is to “boost the interoperability of National Armed Forces and the Allied troops,” the Latvian Defense Ministry said, adding that another goal was to conduct “integrated joint planning, defense operation and combat support element training.”

The exercises initially began as national drills, but in 2014, “numerous Allied and partner countries decided to join the exercise and it became multinational,” the ministry said on its website.

Soldiers from Spain, Poland, Slovenia, Albania, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, and Canada will be taking part in the drills through October 29. Around 200 guardsmen and 30 reserve troops from Latvia will also participate, LETA news agency reported.

The drills will take place across private land in agreement with landowners, with members of the public asked to remain calm and cooperate if they come across personnel and equipment on the move, lsm.lv news outlet reported.

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© Ruptly

Last week, NATO launched a new multinational force in Romania, in a move said to counter Russia along its eastern flank and to keep close tabs on the Russian presence in the Black Sea. The chief of the military alliance claimed NATO’s actions were purely “defensive and proportionate.”

“Our deployments are a direct response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Bucharest last Monday, adding that members of the alliance are “concerned by Russia’s military buildup close to our borders and its lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises such as Zapad 2017.”

NATO’s military activities near the Russian border have been repeatedly criticized by Moscow, which has accused the alliance of undermining the security balance with its eastward buildup and military provocations.

Last week, the head of the Russian Parliament’s Defense Committee warned that Moscow could deploy more forces, including Iskander-M tactical missile systems, to its western regions in response to the US deployment of additional forces to Poland. This came after reports that the US recently “covertly” sent a new mechanized brigade to Poland, increasing the overall strength of its military group in the eastern European state to the size of a mechanized division.

READ MORE: Moscow could send more missiles to Kaliningrad over ‘US military buildup in Poland’ – snr Russian MP

Washington, among other things, also plans to pour $ 5 million into a radar facility to be built at the Narva River, separating Estonia from Russia, Estonia’s Interior Ministry said earlier this month. The US-funded radar is part of an $ 82-million project to strengthen Estonia’s border with Russia, which includes outfitting it with technical surveillance along its entire length. The radar is crucial for Estonia’s NATO allies as well, Estonian Interior Minister Andres Anvelt said

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Spanish High Court orders detention of 2 Catalan separatist leaders under investigation for sedition

Spain’s High Court has remanded two leaders of a Catalan separatist organization on suspicion of sedition. The prosecution alleges them to be the key figures in organizing the recent independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by Madrid.

The leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Cuixart of the Omnium Cultural group were jailed on Monday after questioning.The two men will not be allowed to post bail and remain in custody.The Catalan regional police chief, Maj. Josep Lluis Trapero, and colleague Lt. Teresa Laplana were also questioned on Monday, but unlike the Catalan independence activists they have avoided jail. The police officials, however, were forced to give up their passports and have to appear in court every two weeks.

READ MORE: Catalan quandary: No big national power supports its independence – analyst

The four people are under investigation over their role in the demonstrations in Barcelona on September 20-21, which erupted as several Catalan officials were arrested and Spanish police raided offices during the crackdown ahead of the referendum on October 1.

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