Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has explained how some of the Catalan political leaders facing lengthy jail terms are his ‘personal friends’.
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 claiming ‘jail is not the answer’.
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.
Guardiola also spoke about human rights, following on from concern that his rhetoric on the situation in his homeland was not the same as what he applied to Arab nations, due to Manchester City’s links to the political leadership in UAE.
“I defend human rights here, in Arabic countries, in Madrid…wherever, we must fight against racism, discrimination, machismo…I said it in the statement,” Guardiola said, as cited by Marca.
“I don't know exactly what is going to happen today in my country, in Catalonia. How incredible and peaceful they are marching through Catalonia to Barcelona to give support to the politicians and activists imprisoned for more than a year.
“If people were not convinced that millions and millions of people from all the cities of Catalonia would not leave to give their support. The statement I made was to ask them to sit down and talk.
“The international community must help us to resolve the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. Someone, a mediator from outside, you should help us to sit down and talk.
“I have personal friends who are going to spend nine years in jail for voting. For asking to vote. And there are millions of people who will peacefully support this people. Europe must take a step forward and help us to resolve this conflict.
“Right or left…they don't want to get involved. We need Europe to resolve this conflict. People don't trust each other, Spain, Catalonia…that's why I made the statement. Sit down and talk.”