FC Barcelona Criticizes Jail Sentences for Catalan Separatist Leaders

W460

Spanish champions FC Barcelona on Monday criticized the jail sentences handed nine Catalan separatist leaders over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, saying "political dialogue" was needed instead.

"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 club said in a statement shortly after Spain's Supreme Court issued its long-awaited verdicts.

"The resolution of the conflict in Catalonia must come exclusively from political dialogue," it added.

"Therefore, now more than ever, the club asks all policy makers to lead a process of dialogue and negotiation to resolve this conflict, which should also allow the release of convicted civic and political leaders."

The Supreme Court sentenced the nine Catalan separatist leaders, most of them members of the former Catalan government, to prison terms of between nine and 13 years for sedition for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid which included a secession referendum that was banned by Madrid.

Some of them have been in pre-trial detention for close to two years.

Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium is a cauldron of separatist fervor but the club has long been careful to avoid openly supporting independence.

Instead it argues Catalans have the right to decide and it vocally criticized attempts by Spain's central government to prevent the independence referendum from going ahead on October 1, 2017. 

After police raided Catalan government offices and arrested officials in the run up to the referendum in a bid to stop the vote, the club issued a statement condemning "any act that may impede the free exercise" of democracy and freedom of speech.

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