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Catalonia not comparable to Hong Kong, says president

Torra links turmoil at Barcelona airport with prison sentences for pro-independence leaders

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15 October 2019 01:36 PM

by

Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

The Catalan president Quim Torra has played down concerns that the independence movement could follow the footsteps of Hong Kong protesters after thousands blocked Barcelona airport on Monday.

"I don’t think the two cases are comparable," said Torra, justifying the turmoil that took over major infrastructure across Catalonia in response to the lengthy prison sentences for 9 Catalan leaders who led the 2017 independence push.

The head of the Catalan government stressed that Monday’s widespread protests were a consequence of the Spanish Supreme Court verdict, and defended the independence movement as "peaceful, democratic, and non-violent."

On Monday, independence supporters were met by the forceful response of police officers, who used batons and shot rubber bullets to stop protesters from stopping all activities at the airport.

At least 13 people received medical attention, and a protester injured by a rubber bullet was at risk of losing his eye as he underwent surgery on Tuesday.

  • "If at any point there were any moments that the police went beyond protocol, the necessary investigations will be carried out and there will be consequences"

    Quim Torra · Catalan president

In turn, some protesters threw many objects at police officers, using fire extinguishers and building barricades.

The Catalan president said his government will investigate "until the last consequences" any case of alleged abuse of force by officers from the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, during the protests.

Some local human rights groups criticized the riot police for using force against protesters, allegedly breaking protocols. Torra insisted it is important to keep a balance between the "right to protest" and general security.

Torra suspends agenda until Thursday

Torra also announced that he will respond to the verdict convicting the jailed leaders in an address to parliament on Thursday. Torra has said that there will be no vote in the plenary parliament session.

In a speech immediately after the verdict on Monday, Torra promised an address in parliament, as well as an exceptional cabinet meeting and a letter to Spanish president Pedro Sánchez and King of Spain Felipe VI to request a meeting.

The government will thus suspend its agenda until Thursday, participating only in acts of condemnation of the sentence. Torra will consult with the imprisoned leaders over what to do next.

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  • Catalan president Quim Torra (center) and foreign minister Alfred Bosch (by Alan Ruiz Terol)

  • Catalan president Quim Torra (center) and foreign minister Alfred Bosch (by Alan Ruiz Terol)