October 31, 2019 / 12:02 PM / a month ago

Spain's Sanchez says there will be no "online" independence for Catalonia

MADRID, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, stepping up efforts to control separatist groups and parties’ activity on the internet, said on Thursday his government would not allow Catalonia to seek “online” independence.

Sanchez faces a parliamentary election on Nov.10, with much depending on how voters react to days of sometimes violent protests that followed the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders this month.

Opinion polls show his Socialist party leading but with fewer seats than in a previous election in April, in part because right-wing parties received a boost from voters upset with the unrest in the wealthy northeastern region.

“I’m telling Catalan separatists. There won’t be independence either offline or online. The state of law will be as forcefully online than in the real world,” Sanchez told Onda Cero radio.

The government will on Thursday adopt a decree to oblige all public administrations to host their websites in the European Union, a move he said was aimed at putting an end to what he called the separatists’ aim of a “digital republic.”

The move is part of a broader crackdown by Spanish autorithies on the online activity of separatists.

A Spanish judge ordered the closure of secretive Catalan protest group Democratic Tsunami, which was immediately followed by the group migrating its website to another url.

Then Spanish police requested coding hosting company GitHub, owned by Microsoft Corp, to block an app uploaded in its system by Democratic Tsunami.

A GitHub company spokesperson told El Pais newspaper that the Democratic Tsunami’s content had been removed. But the group itself said that its app - whose goal is to announce the group’s actions - could still be downloaded through a link posted on messaging platform Telegram.

Separatist politicians, including Catalonia’s former regional president Carles Puigdemont, have set up an online “Council for the Catalan Republic” which says it has some 80,000 followers.

Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) party has included in its electoral program a plan to create a digital republic before there can be a real one.

Separately, Democratic Tsunami on Thursday called on people to take to the streets on Nov. 9, on the eve of the parliamentary election, with the intent of disrupting the pre-election quiet day, when no electoral events are allowed.

The group called on people to organise cultural, political and festive events during six hours on Nov. 9 to push “the Spanish state to reflect” on the jailing of the Catalans, it said on Twitter. (Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Joan Faus Additional reporting by Neha Malara Writing by Ingrid Melander)

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