FC Barcelona have condemned the jail sentences given to leaders of Catalan separatist leaders for their roles in a banned 2017 independence referendum.
Spain’s supreme court sentenced Catalonia’s former deputy leader to 13 years in prison on Monday. Another eight separatist leaders, out of 12 on trial, were also found guilty of sedition and have been jailed for between nine and 13 years.
“Prison is not the solution,” said a Barcelona statement released on Monday.
The club played a La Liga match against Las Palmas behind closed doors at the Nou Camp due to protests in the city over the independence poll, which was declared illegal by the Spanish government.
During the game, the scoreboard carried a picture of a ballot box and the word ‘democracy’ on it.
The club said it was wrong “to prevent citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression”.
Gerard Pique, who plays for Barcelona and Spain, was among those who voted in the poll.
On Monday he said was “proud” to be part of the club after the statement which called for the conflict in Catalonia to be resolved “exclusively from political dialogue”.
“In the same way that the preventative prison sentence didn’t help to resolve the conflict, neither will the prison sentence given today, because prison is not the solution,” the statement said.
“Now more than ever the club asks all political leaders to lead a process of dialogue and negotiation to resolve this conflict, which should also allow for the release of convicted civic and political leaders.
“FC Barcelona also expresses all of its support and solidarity to the families of those who are deprived of their freedom.”
Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, is in northeast Spain and accounts for about 16 per cent of Spain’s 46 million population and contributes about 20 per cent of the country’s GDP.
It produces one third of Spain’s exports and receives one third of its foreign investment.
With a different language and distinct culture from the rest of Spain, its levels of autonomy have varied over time.
Espanyol, Girona call for solutions to ‘social crisis’
La Liga side Espanyol, also based in Barcelona, stated their “respect for judicial decisions” but also called for public authorities “to seek political and democratic solutions” to a “social crisis”.
Girona, who play in Barcelona and compete in the Spanish second division, rejected the ruling from the Spanish Supreme Court and reaffirmed their position as “a defender of freedom of expression and in favour of the right to decide”.
The club said they were “committed to opening a process of dialogue and negotiation between all parties, without limits or conditions”.
The Catalan Football Federation said it would terminate all federal activity, “in solidarity with condemned Catalan politicians and social actors and their families”.
Soon after Monday’s ruling hundreds of students and civil servants began protesting in the Catalan capital of Barcelona.
Protesters blocked roads, while civil servants gathered outside some government buildings and protests were reported in other towns across the wealthy northeastern region.
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