SPANISH Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faced protests from MEPs over the prosecution of Catalan pro-independence leaders yesterday, when he spoke at the European Parliament.

More than a dozen members of the EU-Catalonia Dialogue Platform raised banners during his address, which showed the faces of Catalan leaders either in jail or exiled across Europe.

Sanchez had dismissed a request for a meeting to discuss the political crisis in Catalonia. The cross-party group has repeatedly called for the release of the jailed leaders and has been critical of Spain’s handling of Catalan concerns.

Former Slovenian minister Ivo Vajgl, who heads the group, tweeted that he had received no formal response to the meeting request, and warned Sanchez that turning it down would be “to lose the opportunity for the dialogue he defends”.

In his address, Sanchez called for action to fight Eurosceptics, far-right parties and nationalism in a discussion about the future of the European Union.

He said: “Faced with the rhetoric of discriminatory identities, [we want] inclusive identities, identities that don’t discriminate.”

Meanwhile, a nephew of Catalan President Quim Torra, was among those detained by Spanish police yesterday in connection with the blockage of high-speed railway lines during demonstrations last October marking the first anniversary of the independence referendum.

Ernest Morell Torra, an activist for the pro-independence, far left CUP, was arrested by police in Girona, in northern Catalonia, along with two CUP mayors and nine protesters from the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs).

The mayors of Verges, Ignasi Sabater, and his colleague from Celra council, Dani Cornella were the civic officials who were detained. A total of 15 people were arrested on allegations of causing “public disorder” and were later released.

Benet Salellas, Sabater’s lawyer, described the detentions as “unjustified and disproportionate”, and claimed that arresting someone on public disorder offences instead of summoning them by letter was not usual practice.

He said he believed the arrests were related to the demonstration in Girona last December 6, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution.

Salellas added that he went to the police station in Girona were the mayors were being held, but was not allowed to see them because he spoke in Catalan.

He told radio station RAC1: “I was told that until I speak Spanish, I would not be let in. It is an attack on multilingualism and, in this case, also the right to a defence.”