Nigerian Govt Condemns Attack On Amaechi In Spain

Reps Summon Amaechi Over Corruption Allegations
Mr Rotimi Amaechi (file)

 

 

The Nigerian Government has condemned the attack on the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, in Spain.

Mr Amaechi who is in Madrid for a climate change event came under attack by some Nigerians living in the European country.

He explained via his Twitter handle that it took the intervention of the Spanish police to bring the situation under control, adding that he was not hurt.

 

READ ALSO: Nigerians ‘Attack’ Rotimi Amaechi In Spain

Reacting to the incident in a statement, the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, thanked the Nigerian Mission in Spain for its prompt intervention.

She also commended the Spanish police who ensured that the attacks did not escalate any further.

Dabiri-Erewa appealed to Nigerians to be of good behavior wherever they find themselves.

According to her, such incidents ultimately tarnish Nigeria’s image within the host country, with multiplier negative effects on law-abiding and well-behaved Nigerians living in such a country.

Nigerians ‘Attack’ Rotimi Amaechi In Spain

Amaechi Describes Claim Of Appointing Governorship Candidate As Mischievous

 

Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi has said that he was attacked by some Nigerians in Spain. 

The minister revealed this via a statement on his Twitter page.

In his tweet, Mr. Amaechi said, “Some minutes ago, I was attacked by a few misguided Nigerians while on national assignment at a climate change event in Madrid, Spain”.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: IPOB Members Attack Ekweremadu In Germany

According to his tweet, the assailants were quickly repelled by the Spanish police before they could do any harm.

He noted that he is doing fine, adding that he was not hurt.

Zidane Says Real ‘Not Looking For Revenge’ Against PSG

Zidane Downplays Reported Madrid's Move For Pogba
Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane. AFP

Zinedine Zidane said that his Real Madrid side are “not looking to get revenge” when they host Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday after a 3-0 defeat in France earlier in the group stage.

Pressure mounted on Zidane after that loss at the Parc des Princes in September, but the 13-time European champions have since enjoyed an upturn in fortunes and sit behind leaders Barcelona only on goal difference in La Liga.

Real can join PSG in securing a last-16 place with victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, or if Club Brugge fail to win at Galatasaray in the other Group A match.

“We aren’t looking to get revenge after what happened earlier in the group,” Zidane said on Monday.

“But we want to play a good game of course and maintain our form.

“It’s the kind of game where you can confirm you’re on a good run. We want to win because we’re at home and we want to play good football.

“I want to see my side play 90 minutes at their best.”

READ ALSO: Pinnick Meets England-born Midfielder Ebere Eze Over Chances To Play For Nigeria

Frenchman Zidane was rebuked by PSG sporting director Leonardo earlier this month for comments about a possible move for his compatriot Kylian Mbappe, when he said the Paris forward’s “dream is to play for Real Madrid”.

The 47-year-old made clear again his admiration for Mbappe ahead of Tuesday’s encounter.

“You know that I’ve known Mbappe for a long time and that I’m in love with him as a person because of when he came here on trial a long time ago,” said Zidane.

“Having said that, he’s our opponent and there’s no more to it.”

Real have recovered in the Champions League after also being held to a 2-2 home draw by Brugge in their second game, beating Galatasaray home and away including a 6-0 thrashing in Madrid last time out.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is hoping the Spanish giants can show how far they have come since the loss in Paris.

“The first meeting with them helped us learn a lot — it wasn’t a good game but we’ve improved a lot lately,” said the Belgian.

“It’s not revenge, more wanting to get one over on another big team who have aspirations to win the Champions League and we need to show how good we are.”

PSG ready for ‘big challenge’

PSG lead Real, who knocked them out of the tournament in the last 16 two years ago, by five points with two matches remaining and can secure top spot in the group by avoiding defeat.

“They have great qualities and a great mentality, it is a big challenge,” said Paris coach Thomas Tuchel.

“The match will be different from the first leg. The Bernabeu is a very hard venue to play. Madrid are in good form, they score a lot and barely concede.

“But we have a balanced and dangerous team. We are ready for this challenge, I am sure of that. We have to work together and suffer together.”

The French champions are still without injured duo Ander Herrera and Thilo Kehrer, but have Neymar back after the world’s most expensive player returned for his first appearance since October 5 against Lille on Friday.

Protesters Block Spain-France Highway

Catalan regional police 'Mossos D'Esquadra' stand guard as protesters block the AP-7 highway at the Spanish-French border in La Jonquera northern Spain, on November 11, 2019 during an action called by Tsunami Democratic movement for civil disobedience actions. LLUIS GENE / AFP
Catalan regional police ‘Mossos D’Esquadra’ stand guard as protesters block the AP-7 highway at the Spanish-French border in La Jonquera northern Spain, on November 11, 2019 during an action called by Tsunami Democratic movement for civil disobedience actions. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Catalan separatist activists blocked traffic on Monday on a motorway linking Spain and France, in a fresh protest against the sentencing last month of nine of their leaders to lengthy jail terms.

Demonstrators cut the AP7 motorway at La Jonquera near the city of Girona in eastern Spain, a day after a repeat general election in which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist emerged as winners but weakened, while far-right party Vox surged to third place on the back of its hardline stance against separatism.

Dozens of vehicles blocked the motorway near the border with France while some 300 people set up a barricade, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Some demonstrators began to set up a stage and speakers which they brought to the scene in vans.

Catalonia’s regional road department confirmed the motorway was cut in both directions at La Jonquera.

The protest was called by a new, mysterious organisation called “Democratic Tsunami” which last month sent thousands of people to block access to Barcelona airport in a protest which ended in clashes between demonstrators and police.

“This mobilisation is a cry to the international community so that it makes the Spanish state understand that the only possible path is to sit down and talk,” the group said in a message sent to its followers on encrypted messaging service Telegram.

Radical separatist group CDR also called on its supporters to head to La Jonquera to block the highway.

Catalonia was rocked by days of mass, sometimes violent, pro-independence rallies after Spain’s Supreme Court on October 14 sentenced nine politicians and activists to jail for up to 13 years for their role in a failed secession bid in 2017.

Demonstrators have frequently cut road and rail links between Spain and France while many shops in downtown Barcelona have been shut during the rallies and there are growing concerns about the impact of the unrest on business in Spain’s second-largest city.

 

AFP

Voting Ends In Spain After Election Overshadowed By Catalan Crisis

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Zahara De la Sierra near Cadiz on November10, 2019 during general elections in Spain.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

Voting drew to a close in Spain’s fourth general election in as many years on Sunday, with the ballot overshadowed by the ongoing Catalan separatist crisis which has fuelled support for the upstart far-right party Vox.

As polling stations closed at 1900 GMT, figures from several opinion polls carried out in recent days but which could only be published after voting ended, suggested Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists would win with nearly 120 seats.

In the last election in April, the Socialists secured 123 of the parliament’s 350 seats, falling far short of an absolute majority, and unable to form a government Sanchez was forced to call a new vote.

The survey also predicted a bigger-than-expected surge for Vox with around 50 seats, easily doubling the 24 it won in April when it made its parliamentary debut in the biggest showing by the far-right since Spain returned to democracy after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.

READ ALSO: Bolivia’s President Morales To Call New Elections After OAS Audit

Such a result would make Vox the third-largest party in parliament, after the rightwing Popular Party, which was seen taking just under 90 seats, up from 66 in April.

In recent days, Sanchez has repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox’s “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship.

The last election produced a near-record 76 percent turnout, which helped Sanchez who had mobilised left-leaning voters to oppose Vox.

But by 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) turnout stood at 56.9 percent, nearly four percentage points lower than at the same hour in the April ballot.

Spain does not publish an exit poll, with preliminary results expected in a few hours.

‘Drastic Solutions’

The campaign took place on the heels of a fresh wave of demonstrations in Catalonia.

Since mid-October when Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, separatist protesters have staged mass protests.

But by night, the protests initially descended into violent clashes, with masked demonstrators torching barricades and hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at riot police who hit back with water canon, tear gas and foam bullets.

More than 600 people were injured, around half of them police.

As the crisis gathered pace, Sanchez came under increasing pressure from the right to clamp down on the unrest, with Vox leader Santiago Abascal calling for Madrid to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and arrest regional president Quim Torra.

At his final campaign rally on Friday, Abascal — who has pledged to ban all separatist parties — said “drastic solutions” were needed as his supporters chanted: “Torra to the dungeon!”

With his rallying cry of “Spaniards first” and his untempered rage against those who would betray the unity of Spain, Abascal has capitalised on the crisis, leading to a surge in support for his far-right faction.

‘Falsified, Manipulated Data’

Launched in 2014, Vox initially struggled to gain traction with its ultra-conservative stance on immigrants, gender violence and traditional values, but over the past year, it has chalked up significant gains

Lidia Lopez, a 21-year-old trainee journalist who lives in the same Madrid neighbourhood as Abascal, said the extremist leader had benefitted from the spotlight offered by televised election debates.

“But the problem is that during such debates, he uses falsehoods and nobody checks in real-time to see if what he’s saying is true or not, so people hear it and believe it is true,” she said after casting her ballot for the radical left Podemos.

The party has repeatedly come under fire over false claims in its campaign, with more than 2,500 academics and researchers on Friday denouncing Vox for its “calculated, systemic and recurrent” use of “falsified and manipulated data”.

Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.

That put an end to decades of dominance of the two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.

There is a good risk Sunday’s vote will only prolong the agony.

With no single party able to secure the required 176 seats for a majority, the Socialists are likely to opt for a minority government, ING analyst Steven Trypsteen said.

“Voting intentions appear to have changed since the April election. But these changes will not make it easier to form a government,” he added.

AFP

Spain Votes In Repeat General Election Amid Catalonia Tensions

 

Spain voted Sunday in its fourth general election in as many years amid heightened tensions over the separatist push in Catalonia that has fuelled a surge in support for upstart far-right party Vox.

The repeat polls were called after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez failed to secure support from other parties following an inconclusive election in April which saw his Socialist party win the most votes, but no working majority in parliament.

Opinion polls however suggest this new election will fail to break the deadlock. Neither the left nor the right look likely to win a ruling majority in Spain’s 350-seat parliament.

The Socialists are on track to finish top again, but with slightly fewer seats than the 123 they picked up in April, while the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) may strengthen its parliamentary presence.

But the most striking development could be the rise of the far-right Vox party, which might even jump to third-largest in parliament, according to polling.

Party leaders from across the political spectrum urged Spaniards to head to the polls.

Sanchez told reporters after voting in Madrid that “it is very important that we all participate to strengthen our democracy” and “have the needed stability to be able to form a government”.

The last election produced a near-record 76 percent turnout, which helped Sanchez who had mobilised left-leaning voters to oppose Vox but analysts warn the numbers will likely drop this time, as Spaniards suffer election fatigue.

Voting stations will close at 8:00 pm, with results expected a few hours later.

‘Put order’

The election comes as Spain finds itself increasingly polarised by the Catalan crisis, which has deepened in recent weeks.

Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, sparking days of angry street protests in Barcelona and other Catalan cities that sometimes turned violent.

More than 600 people were injured in the protests, which saw demonstrators torching barricades and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police.

During a TV election debate PP leader Pablo Casado called for a “real government that will put order in Catalonia”.

But the toughest line against the Catalan separatists has come from Vox leader Santiago Abascal.

“Drastic solutions are needed,” he said during his final campaign rally on Friday night in Madrid.

He then repeated his pledge to end the Catalan crisis by suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy, banning separatist parties and arresting its regional president, Quim Torra, who has vowed to continue the secession drive.

The crowd responded by chanting “Torra to the dungeon”.

At the rally, Ana Escobedo said she has voted for the PP in the past but was drawn to Vox because of its hard line on Catalonia as well as illegal immigration.

“I think we need to take a heavy hand,” she said.

‘Remain difficult ‘

Vox won 24 seats in parliament in the last election in April, in the first significant showing by a far-right faction since Spain’s return to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

This time Vox could double that number, polls suggest.

In recent days, Sanchez has repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox’s “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship.

Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.

That put an end to decades of dominance of the two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.

But there is a risk Sunday’s vote will only prolong the agony.

With no single party able to secure the required 176 seats for a majority, the Socialists are likely to opt for a minority government, ING analyst Steven Trypsteen said.

“Voting intentions appear to have changed since the April election. But these changes will not make it easier to form a government, so the political situation is likely to remain difficult after this weekend’s vote,” he added.

How Messi’s Dead-Ball Hat-Trick Put Barca Back On Top

 

Lionel Messi delivered an incredible dead-ball hat-trick on Saturday to steer Barcelona to a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo and ease the pressure on his coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi scored with a penalty and then a pair of sumptuous free-kicks either side of half-time after Lucas Olaza had briefly pulled Celta level with a free-kick of his own at Camp Nou. Sergio Busquets drove home to make sure of the win late on.

A 34th treble in La Liga puts Messi equal with Cristiano Ronaldo, while a much-needed win sends Barca above Real Madrid on goal difference and back to the top of the table at the end of a testing week.

“It is impossible not to depend on Messi, he illuminates everything,” said Valverde. “We depend on him like any team would depend on him. He unlocked the game.”

READ ALSO: France Crush Australian Dreams To Win Fed Cup Final

Madrid had briefly claimed first place after continuing their own goal-surge by hammering Eibar 4-0, a game in which Karim Benzema scored twice and Eden Hazard exploded into life.

But while Madrid appear to be hitting their stride, Barcelona’s momentum had stalled. After losing to Levante and failing to break down Slavia Prague in the Champions League, scrutiny had again turned on Valverde and his future as Barcelona coach.

Barcelona’s disgruntled fans had whistled their team against Slavia in midweek and when Olaza equalised for Celta, that tension and restlessness threatened to return.

Instead, Messi took command, this hat-trick taking his tally to nine goals in seven games, 612 in total for his club.

“Obviously when it’s tight we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” said Busquets.

Yet his precision from free-kicks is a skill the 32-year-old has worked on and improved in recent years, his conversion rate currently at four goals from his last seven attempts in the league.

The last time a player scored a hat-trick from set-pieces in La Liga was when Messi himself achieved the same feat in 2012 against Espanyol, albeit with two penalties and one free-kick.

There was good news for Barcelona too in the return of Luis Suarez, who came off the bench after recovering from a calf strain.

Messi scored his penalty in the 23rd minute after Joseph Aidoo had blocked Nelson Semedo’s cross with his hand.

It was Messi that conceded the foul for Olaza’s curling free-kick that was well-hit enough to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, even if the goalkeeper might have been disappointed not to be able to get across.

There was little Celta keeper Ruben Blanco could do about Messi’s efforts, the first in stoppage time before the interval and the second three minutes after the restart.

They were almost carbon copies of each other, bending over the wall and nestling in the top right-hand corner.

Celta, under their new coach Oscar Garcia, never looked like mounting a comeback and Busquets put the result beyond doubt with a low shot five minutes from the finish.

Real’s players might have been watching on their way home from Ipurua, where they went three up inside 29 minutes, Sergio Ramos scoring a penalty between two Benzema strikes, the second also a spot-kick after Ramos delegated to his teammate. Fede Valverde added a fourth in the second half.

Benzema’s double takes him to 157 goals for Real Madrid, above Ferenc Puskas into sixth in the club’s all-time list, but his excellent display was trumped by a creative masterclass from Hazard.

“His first half was very impressive,” said coach Zinedine Zidane. “We are happy and he will be a huge player for Madrid, for sure.”

Hazard’s vintage performance

Benzema latched onto Hazard’s pass in the 17th minute and after Valverde and Luka Modric missed, the ball spilled back to the Frenchman, who found the corner from an acute angle.

Three minutes later it was two, Hazard the creator again, his feet too quick for Pablo De Blasis, who caught his opponent’s right leg. Ramos slid the penalty home.

Hazard sparkled, with a brilliant nutmeg, a ‘rabona’ cross and too many glides past defenders to count.

Ramos passed on the second Madrid penalty, awarded for a foul on Lucas Vazquez, to allow Benzema to make it three before Valverde had added a fourth, cracking in Modric’s pass for his first goal in La Liga.

Spanish PM Under Pressure Over Catalan Protests

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses a press conference in Brussels on October 18, 2019. AFP

 

Ahead of next month’s general election, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faced sharp criticism on Sunday for his handling of violent Catalan separatist protests even as calm returned to Barcelona and other cities overnight.

The centre-right Ciudadanos party, which was born out of opposition to Catalan separatism, held a rally in front of Catalonia’s regional government headquarters in Barcelona under the slogan: “That’s enough! Justice and coexistence”.

“We have had enough of seeing how radicals roam freely and scare millions of Spaniards on their land. The streets belong to everyone,” Ciudadanos leader Alberto Rivera tweeted before the rally began.

He has called on Sanchez to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy just as the central government did in 2017 after the Catalan parliament declared independence following a banned secession referendum.

The streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities have been rocked by protests since Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine separatist leaders, many of them former regional government ministers, last Monday to jail terms of up to 13 years for sedition over the failed 2017 independence bid.

Nearly 600 people have been injured in clashes with police since the protests started. A police officer was in “very serious condition” and a demonstrator was in “critical condition” according to Barcelona mayor Ada Colau.

 ‘No dialogue’ 

In an interview published in top-selling daily newspaper El Pais, the leader of the main conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, accused the government of “pretending nothing has happened” and promising that everything will return to normal “with moderation”.

“There can be no dialogue with those who make Catalonia burn,” he said in reference to Catalonia’s separatist president Quim Torra who on Saturday called for “unconditional” negotiations with Sanchez.

That appeared to be aimed at ensuring that a legal referendum on independence, currently a non-starter for Madrid, was up for discussion.

Sanchez, who came to power in June 2018 with the support of Catalan separatist parties, refused to meet with Torra until he “clearly” condemns this week’s violence and recognises that half of Catalonia’s roughly 7.5 million residents do not want independence.

A poll published in July by a public Catalan institute showed support for an independent Catalonia at its lowest level in two years, with 48.3 percent of people against and 44 percent in favour.

 ‘Increase polarisation’ 

The court’s decision has thrust the Catalan dispute to the heart of the political debate ahead of Spain’s November 10 general election, its fourth in as many years.

According to the first poll since Monday’s verdict, the ruling Socialists are likely to secure the most votes but again fall short of a majority. The PP was tipped to make significant gains.

Published by the daily El Mundo, the survey predicted Sanchez’s Socialists would capture 122 seats in the 350-seat parliament, slightly down from 123 it took in the last election in April, while the PP would win 98 seats, up from 66.

“Order and territory has never been a winning bet for the Socialists,” Pablo Simon, a political science professor at Madrid’s Carlos III university, wrote in a blog post on Saturday, adding the Catalan crisis will “increase polarisation” which would benefit parties with more extreme positions like the far-right Vox and radical separatists CUP.

Barcelona returned to relative calm Saturday night after six days of demonstrations against the jailing of separatist leaders.

But on iconic Las Ramblas street, protesters set up barricades and lit fires before they were dispersed by police firing foam projectiles.

Overnight Friday, radical separatists had hurled rocks and fireworks at police who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

AFP

Barcelona And Real Madrid Clasico Postponed Over Catalonia Protests

Collage show scenes from the violence that erupted after the protest called by the local Republic Defence Committees (CDR) in Barcelona.

 

The Barcelona and Real Madrid Clasico, Spain’s biggest football league match, has been postponed because of Catalonia protests, the Spanish football federation said Friday.

The clubs have until 10:00am (0800 GMT) on Monday to find a new date for the match originally scheduled for October 26, the federation said. If they fail to do so, the federation will choose a new date.

The Spanish football league (LFP) on Wednesday said it had asked the country’s football federation (RFEF) to move the fixture from to Madrid after three days of large-scale demonstrations which have turned increasingly violent.

30 People Arrested During Catalan Protests

People wave Spanish flags and a giant banner reading “Today as yesterday, Catalans and Spaniards” during a demonstration for the unity of Spain marking the Spanish National Day in Barcelona on October 12, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Police in Spain said Wednesday they arrested 30 people overnight across Catalonia for their roles in clashes with police during protests over the jailing of nine separatist leader over a failed 2017 independence bid.

Pro-independence groups staged sit-ins outside Spanish government offices in a number of Catalan cities late Tuesday, with around 40,000 people taking part in Barcelona and 9,000 in the separatist stronghold of Girona, according to municipal and regional police.

The protests ended in clashes with police in many cities.

In Barcelona, police charged hundreds of masked demonstrators who threw projectiles at officers and set garbage containers and cardboard boxes on fire.

Catalonia’s regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said 14 people were arrested in the port of Tarragona, six in Barcelona and ten others in other Catalan cities for disobeying authority and causing a disturbance.

Monday’s ruling unleashed a wave of protests, with Catalan separatists enraged by the Supreme Court’s decision to hand heavy prison sentences of between nine and 13 years to leaders convicted of sedition over the 2017 separatist push.

That culminated in a banned independence referendum and short-lived declaration of independence in October of the same year.

Spain Issues New Arrest Warrant For Catalan Ex-President Puigdemont

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (2ndL) delivers a speech in front of the EU Commission, in Brussels on September 25, 2018.  JOHN THYS / AFP

 

A Spanish judge has issued a new international warrant for the arrest of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution over the failed 2017 independence bid.

The warrant, which calls for his detention on grounds of sedition and misuse of public funds, was issued shortly after the Supreme Court convicted 12 Catalan separatist leaders, nine of whom were handed lengthy prison terms of up to 13 years.

Catalan Leaders Jailed Up To 13 Years For Sedition

People protest holding a banner reading “I accuse” in Barcelona on October 14, 2019, after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to prison terms for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan leaders to prison terms of between nine and 13 years for sedition for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid. 

The long-awaited verdicts were less than those demanded by the prosecution which had sought up to 25 years behind bars for former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras on grounds of rebellion.

Spain has been bracing for weeks for the court’s ruling, with tension mounting steadily and police sending reinforcements to Catalonia where separatists have pledged a mass response of civil disobedience.

Former Catalan regional Carles Puigdemont called the sentences an “outrage.”

“100 years in all. An outrage. Now more than ever, by your side and those of your families. It is time to react as never before,” tweeted Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.

The 12 defendants, most of them members of the former Catalan government, were put on trial in February for their role in the banned October 1, 2017  referendum and the short-lived independence declaration that followed it.

“The Supreme Court condemns Oriel Junqueras to 13 years of prison… on grounds of sedition and the misuse of public funds,” the ruling said, handing 12 years to three other former regional ministers.

Former parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell was handed 11 years and six months in jail, while two influential Catalan civic leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, were sentenced to nine years prison.

Only three of the 12 leaders, who faced lesser charges, escaped jail time and were handed a fine.

Junqueras served as the main defendant after his boss, Puigdemont, fled to Belgium.

The government is hoping the long-awaited ruling will allow it to turn the page on the crisis in the wealthy northeastern region where support for independence has been gaining momentum over the past decade.

But the separatist movement is hoping for just the opposite: that the anticipated guilty verdicts will unite their divided ranks and bring supporters onto the streets.

– Activists gear up to protest –

Activists from the region’s two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, have urged followers to rally on the evening of the verdict.

In the coming days, demonstrators will march from five towns towards Barcelona where they will congregate on Friday, when a general strike has been called.

Activists from the radical CDR (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), have also promised “surprises”. On Sunday they briefly occupied the main train station in Barcelona before cutting traffic on a main avenue of the city.

Anti-riot police have been discreetly deployed to Catalonia but the interior ministry has refused to give numbers.

For many, the situation has brought back memories of tensions in the street in the run-up to the October 1, 2017 referendum which was marred by police violence, and ahead of the short-lived independence declaration of October 27.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made it clear that his government will not tolerate any violence, warning he will not hesitate to renew a suspension of Catalan autonomy, as happened two years ago.

The situation is worrying the main Catalan business lobby which said although the verdict would have a “significant emotional impact”, it was important the response avoided disrupting “business activity or social cohesion”.

– Sedition not rebellion –

By definition, the most serious charge of rebellion is “rising up in a violent and public manner” to, among other things, “declare independence for part of the (Spanish) territory”.

Sedition, however, is “rising up publicly and in turbulent fashion” to “prevent by force or in an illegal way” the law from being applied, or the application of an administrative or legal decision.

The trial comes just weeks before Spain heads to the polls for its fourth election in as many years, putting the Catalan question once more at the centre of the political debate.

Although Sanchez’s government is hoping the trial’s end might give fresh impetus to dialogue, Junqueras’ leftwing ERC party has said it would not be possible without an “amnesty” for “political prisoners and those in exile”.