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Yellow ribbon controversy heats up as elections loom

As deadline for government to remove symbols in support of jailed leaders from public buildings approaches, unionist opposition threatens legal action

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13 March 2019 05:19 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Pressure was mounting on the Catalan government on Wednesday afternoon to comply with the electoral authority's ruling to remove yellow ribbon symbols showing support for jailed and exiled Catalan independence leaders from official buildings.

The spokesman for the unionist Ciutadans party (Cs), which lodged the original complaint that led to the order to remove the symbols within 48 hours, reminded president Quim Torra that he had "only hours remaining" to comply with the ruling.

With three elections approaching in April and May, the electoral authority ruled on Monday that the symbols were "partisan" and gave the Catalan executive until Wednesday evening to remove the yellow ribbons from all government buildings.

  • "[Yellow ribbons] don’t stand for a specific political party. Therefore, they aren’t partisan symbols"

    Jordi Puigneró · Digital policy minister

According to Cs spokesman, Carlos Carrizosa, if Torra did not have the symbols removed before the deadline, his party would appeal to the electoral authority to take action and, if necessary, take the issue to the courts.

At the same time, Cs has put forward a motion in the Catalan parliament to condemn the government for "taking advantage" of its authority to turn public buildings into "showcases for separatist propaganda."

"Symbol of repression," says minister

It's yet to be seen whether the Catalan government complies with court orders. So far, pro-independence parties have condemned the decision.

"[Yellow ribbons] aren’t partisan symbols, they reject repression of fundamental rights in Spain. And many people agree," said Jordi Puigneró, the minister for digital policy. "[Yellow ribbons] don’t stand for a specific political party. Therefore, they aren’t partisan symbols."

Only permanent symbols should be official flags, says Socialist leader

The head of the Catalan Socialist party (PSC), Miquel Iceta, also urged the government to comply with the ruling, and called on local authorities to do the same. Iceta defended the display of such symbols for specific occasions, but not "permanently."

"The only permanent symbols that should go on display on public buildings, which should remain neutral and represent citizens, are the official ones, such as the flags of Catalonia, Spain, Europe, and the municipality," said Iceta.

Potential penalties for non-compliance

The Spanish justice minister, Maria Dolores Delgado, also warned Torra that failure to comply with the order would lead to penalties on behalf of the electoral authority, which could react in one of two ways.

The first option is that the authority issues a fine of between 300 and 3,000 euros. The second is that the authority refers to the case to the public prosecutor, who would then decide whether to press disobedience charges.

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  • A yellow ribbon on the façade of the Catalan Ministry of Culture (by Ana Amat Vendrell)

  • A yellow ribbon on the façade of the Catalan Ministry of Culture (by Ana Amat Vendrell)