Police clash with protesters at Barcelona airport after Catalan separatist leaders jailed

14 October 2019, 23:01

Protesters and riot police clashed at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport
Protesters and riot police clashed at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Riot police and protesters have clashed at Barcelona airport after Spain's Supreme Court jailed nine separatist leaders for illegally promoting Catalonian independence.

53 people were injured during the clashes at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, where police fired foam bullets and used batons against the thousands gathered.

Protesters hurled objects at officers, spraying fire extinguishers and breaking windows.

Spain's airport operator, AENA, said at least 108 flights were cancelled.

Police also clashed with angry crowds late on Monday in central Barcelona.

The Catalan separatist leaders were jailed for between nine and 13 years on Monday over their role in an independence referendum in 2017.

Nine of the 12 Catalan politicians and activists were found guilty of sedition and given prison sentences. Four were additionally convicted of misuse of public funds.

The other three were fined for disobedience. The court barred all of them from holding public office.

All 12 were acquitted on the more serious charge of rebellion, which implied the use of violence, brought by state prosecutors and lawyers for the far-right Spanish party Vox.

One of those jailed, the region's former vice president Oriol Junqueras, was a key figure in the Catalan separatist movement for a failed independence bid that sparked Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

Clashes erupted after nine separatist leaders were jailed on Monday
Clashes erupted after nine separatist leaders were jailed on Monday. Picture: PA

Former Catalan Cabinet members Santiago Vila, Meritxell Borras and Carles Mundo, were fined for disobedience.

Caretaker prime minister Pedro Sanchez said the outcome of the four-month trial proved the 2017 secession attempt had become "a shipwreck".

He urged people to "set aside extremist positions" and "embark on a new phase" for Catalonia.

Mr Sanchez said he hoped the prison sentences would mark a turning point in the long stand-off between national authorities and separatist legislators in Barcelona, the Catalonia region's capital.

The Catalan separatist movement is going through its most difficult period in years.

Blockades were erected around the airport in Barcelona
Blockades were erected around the airport in Barcelona. Picture: PA

With a general election scheduled for November 10, its most charismatic leaders are behind bars or abroad after fleeing to avoid prosecution.

Catalan regional president Quim Torra described the court's verdict as "an act of vengeance".

He said it "will not stop us from acting on our determination to build an independent state".

Former regional president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium in October 2017 with several others when they were summoned to appear in court, said the general election is an opportunity to show "a massive response of rejection" for the court's verdict and the "dignity and firmness" of the Catalan independence movements.

He spoke in Brussels hours after a Spanish Supreme Court judge issued an international warrant for his arrest.