Protests erupt as Spain convicts leading Catalan separatists

Madrid, Riot police charged at protesters outside Barcelona’s airport Monday after the Supreme Court sentenced 12 prominent Catalan separatists to lengthy prison terms for their roles in a 2017 push for the wealthy Spanish region’s independence.

Police used batons against the protesters who converged on El Prat airport after a call by the grassroots group Democratic Tsunami, which supports Catalan secession. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw police fire projectiles. Spanish media said police had used foam-type bullets.

A dozen people were treated for minor injuries at the scene, Catalan emergency service SEM said.

Spain’s airport operator, AENA, said at least 67 flights were canceled, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The heavy prison sentences rallied the separatist cause, which is going through its most difficult period in years as its most charismatic leaders are behind bars or abroad, before Spain’s Nov. 10 general election.

The Catalan separatist movement’s two main political parties have been at odds over strategy, and the grassroots organizations that have driven the movement have voiced criticism about the lack of political progress.

Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, said he hoped the sentence would mark a watershed in the long standoff between national authorities in Madrid and separatists in the Catalan capital Barcelona. Sanchez said the court’s verdict proved the 2017 secession attempt had become a shipwreck.

He urged people to set aside extremist positions and embark on a new phase for Catalonia.

But secessionists were defiant and took to the streets in a show of force.

Protesters also halted some Catalan train services by placing burning tires and wood on tracks. They also blocked some roads in the region. Further marches and protests were scheduled for Monday evening.

Source: Bahrain News Agency