Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes the jailing of Catalan political leaders is a ‘direct attack on human rights’.
Barcelona immediately released a statement on Monday morning after Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017.
Oriol Junqueras – the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader on trial – was handed the longest sentence of 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds.
The prosecution had sought up to 25 years in prison for Junqueras but he, alongside the eight others, were cleared of a more serious charge of rebellion.
“The court ruling is a direct attack on human rights, including the right to vote and to demonstrate the freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial,” Guardiola told Tsunami Democratic in a direct viceo.
“This situation is unacceptable in 21st century Europe and it is cleat that Spain is experiencing a drift towards authoritarianism in which an anti-terrorism law is used to prosecute dissidents.
“Neither [Spanish prime minister] Pedro Sanchez's government, nor any other Spanish government, has been brave enough to deal with this conflict with dialogue and respect. Instead, they have chosen repression as the only response.
“We demand that the Spanish government find a political and democratic solution. We demand that Spain sit down and talk. We repeat, there is only one path: sitting down and talking. Sitting down and talking.”
Following the court's verdict, Catalan independence supporters marched in Barcelona displaying banners that read "free political prisoners" while urging others to "take to the streets".
Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters rallied in the city ahead of the verdicts being confirmed on Monday.