Protests erupt as Catalan separatist leader removed from office

Thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonian cities late Monday to protest Catalan separatist leader Quim Torra being suspended from office for disobedience, dpa reported.

Spain's supreme court earlier on Monday unanimously confirmed a ruling by the Catalan regional court from last year that Torra had appealed, which mandates that the 57-year-old cannot hold public office for 18 months.

Torra is also to pay a fine of €30,000 and has to transfer his position as regional prime minister to his deputy Pere Aragones in the next week, who is then expected to call new elections for early 2021.

Protests in Barcelona late Monday centred on Ciutadella Park across from the regional parliament. Between 500 and 1,000 demonstrators gathered there, regional media reported.The protesters pelted police officers with firecrackers, bags of rubbish, stones and pigs' heads. They also set refuse containers alight.

Torra had refused to take down symbols and posters of the Catalan independence movement from his office and other public buildings before the parliamentary elections last year, defying instructions by the electoral commission. Some of the posters demanded the release of jailed separatists, calling them "political prisoners."

Observers fear the court ruling may trigger renewed tensions in the conflict over Catalonia's independence, as it comes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and on the third anniversary of an illegal independence referendum.

Representatives of separatist and left-wing parties criticized the verdict, calling it a "disgrace" and an "attack on democracy" and on freedom of expression.


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