Thousands of Basque protesters take sides in Catalonia dispute

More than 40,000 people have rallied in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao in anger at Spain's direct rule of Catalonia. The Basque Country region has its own separatist movement which for decades turned bloody.
Spanien Bilbao Demonstration gegen Artikel 155 (Reuters/V. West)
Protests against Madrid's handling of the Catalan crisis spread to another Spanish region on Saturday, as the streets of the northern city of Bilbao in the Basque Country were awash with protestors waving umbrellas.
According to the regional paper Naiz, some 44,000 people took part in the rally, which was called by several Basque Country pro-independence groups, the ultra-left wing party Podemos' regional branch and several labor unions.
History rhymes
The Basque region has, until recently, seen decades of violence by the paramilitary group ETA which left some 850 people dead. ETA surrendered its weapons earlier this year, effectively ending its campaign of terror, after the region won financial concessions from Madrid.
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Saturday's rally organizers said they were angry at how the Madrid government had imposed direct rule on Catalonia, another autonomous region in Spain's northeast, following a move towards independence.
Some protesters carried a banner which read "No to 155. Democracy and right to decide," in reference to Article 155 of Spain's Constitution, which Madrid triggered a week ago to suspend Catalonia's regional autonomy. Spain also called a snap election for the region next month.
Weeks after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont held a referendum on self rule, which was declared illegal by the Spanish courts, the regional president is the subject of a European arrest warrant after fleeing to Belgium with four of his ministers. 
Nine other Catalan cabinet members have been remanded in custody, charged with rebellion and other alleged crimes, after Madrid authorities removed the entire regional government from office.
Extradition considered
Belgian authorities said on Saturday they will now consider whether Puigdemont can be extradited to Spain to face trial.
Thousands of Basque protesters take sides in Catalonia dispute Thousands of Basque protesters take sides in Catalonia dispute Reviewed by Alexander Von Stern on 00:31:00 Rating: 5