Thousands form human chain in Spain's Basque

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Tens of thousands of people in the Basque country of northern Spain have formed a human chain to push for greater autonomy.

The chain extended 201.9km from San Sebastian (also known as Donostia) to Victoria-Garteiz - the capital of the Basque autonomous community.

The Basque Country, which has its own flag, language and culture, already has a higher degree of self-government than Catalonia.

The protest was organized by the Basque group Gure Esku Dago (In Our Own Hands).

An Oct. 1 ballot on Catalonia's separation from Spain and consequent unilateral declaration of independence by the regional government prompted Madrid to take control of the region and arrest the civil servants involved in the vote. The motion, brought forward by the Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, was backed by Basque and Catalan MPs. With 175,000 participants, according to Gure Esku Dago, the group nearly doubled the 100,000 it said it would need to link the chain.

Some wore symbols of support for Calatan separatists.

"We have proved that we want to decide the political future of this country", said Gure Esku Dago spokesman Angel Oiarbide as he addressed supporters in Vitoria on self-determination for the Basque region.

Bakartxo Tejeria, the president of Basque's regional parliament, added: "The demonstration proves that we are facing active and lively people who want to make decisions in a democratic way".

Spain has refused to allow an official referendum on secession by the Catalonia region, whose leaders tried and failed to declare independence a year ago.