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14 Oct, 2019 10:25

Protests erupt in Barcelona as citizens vent anger at harsh sentences for Catalan referendum organizers

Protests erupt in Barcelona as citizens vent anger at harsh sentences for Catalan referendum organizers

People are gathering in the streets of the Catalan capital Barcelona, to protest the sentencing of nine people to lengthy jail terms for their roles in the 2017 independence referendum.

On Monday, Spain’s Supreme Court handed down jail terms of between nine and 13 years to the Catalan officials behind the referendum, which failed to create an independent nation of the wealthy autonomous Spanish province. They were found guilty on various charges, including sedition and misuse of public funds in organizing the plebiscite.

Apart from jailing the nine separatist leaders, the court also issued a European arrest warrant for former regional president Carles Puigdemont. He managed to evade Spanish authorities after the failed 2017 independence bid and now lives in exile in Belgium. Madrid had previously sought his extradition, but dropped the arrest warrant in mid-2018 after Germany refused to hand him over.

Now Barcelona is bracing for a day of mass protests, with local students leading the build-up for what is promised to be a “Democratic Tsunami”.

Several streets have been blocked by demonstrators. Further disruptions of traffic are expected as more people take to the streets later in the day. Protest rallies have also been reported in several big Catalan municipalities, such as Girona and Lleida.

A local rail operator reported a brief blockage of a railway line by some activists.

The public anger over the sentences is shared by the province’s leadership. Catalonia’s President Quim Torra condemned it as “an act of vengeance, not an act of justice” that has no place in a democratic society, and also called for peaceful resistance to pressure from Madrid.

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