INDEPENDENCE activists in Catalonia have started the New Year with a fresh campaign calling for a dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments.

The campaign has been backed by 50 famous figures, including five Nobel Prize laureates, UN rapporteurs and personalities. The call comes in a manifesto from civil society group Omnium Cultural, whose president, Jordi Cuixart, was one of the pro-indy leaders jailed for a total of nearly 100 years in 2019 for their part in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

Yoko Ono and Gerry Adams are among its signatories who are demanding the end of repression in Spain, an amnesty for those prosecuted over the referendum and Catalans’ right to decide their own future.

They also want the Spanish and Catalan governments to engage in a “sincere dialogue” to unblock the long-running political conflict. Four Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan, Shirin Ebadi and Adolfo Perez Esquivel. Elfriede Jelinek, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, is also supporting the manifesto.

The initiative is being promoted by Omnium Civil Rights Europe, the Brussels branch of Omnium Cultural, which is based in Barcelona.

It comes ahead of Catalan elections next month, which could see the independence lobby strengthen is hold on the Catalan government.

Omnium was formed in 1961 at the height of the Franco dictatorship to combat the censorship and persecution of Catalan culture and fill the gap left by the political and civil institutions which were banned by the dictatorship.

Since then it has become one of Catalonia’s flagship civic society bodies promoting Catalan language and culture, as well as Catalonia’s right to self-determination.

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Three years after the Catalan indyref and the subsequent crackdown on the independence movement, Omnium remains a driving force in ensuring those who were jailed are not forgotten.

Almost 1000 would-be voters were subjected to Spanish police brutality before and during the poll in scenes that shocked the world.

Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, who leads the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) were each jailed for nine years after being filmed standing atop a police car trying to disperse protestors before the referendum.

Seven former Catalan ministers were imprisoned and, in 2019, sentenced by the Spanish Supreme Court to between nine and 13 years in prison.

Seven other Catalan politicians, some of them government ministers, fled to exile in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland.

Since then, hundreds of citizens have faced criminal investigations over allegations that they played a part in organising the referendum.

Speaking from inside prison, Cuixart told The National: “Any human rights violation in any corner of the world is an affront to democracy everywhere.

“These 50 signatories denounce once again the breach of international law by the Spanish state, and it is a serious anomaly of a state of the European Union that, to deny the right to self-determination of Catalonia [it] continues to ignore the UN and the main human rights organisations in the world.”

Spain has ignored calls from the UN and international human rights groups to free the political prisoners.

Omnium has also produced a video to accompany their call for dialogue, which points to the Scottish and Canadian means of solving political disputes.

It states: “As the precedents in Quebec and Scotland show, the very best way to resolve political conflicts of this nature is to use the most basic tool democracy has to offer: voting.

“The use of a judicial system to resolve a political crisis has only brought growing repression on hundreds of citizens and no solution.”