Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

In this file photo taken on September 29, 2018 Catalan regional police 'Mossos D'Esquadra' officers, covered in paint, stand guard after clashing with separatist protesters during a counter-protest against a demonstration in support of Spanish police in Barcelona. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2018

Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

MADRID: Spain’s interior minister said he would send national police to Catalonia if local authorities did not do more to stop protests like the one that shut down major highways over the weekend.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska accused the local Catalan police of doing nothing to prevent pro-independence protesters blocking the AP-7 toll road, which runs up Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for more than 15 hours on Saturday.
The involvement of national police would be a contentious issue in the northeastern region which has its own administration and where polls suggest almost half the population wants to split away from Spain.
It would also stir memories of Madrid’s decision to send in a large contingent of national police in September last year after the Catalan government called an illegal independence referendum.
“Serious disruptions of public order and traffic security, such as those seen in the last few days, need to be dealt with by the regional police,” the minister wrote to his regional counterpart in an open letter late on Monday.
“If this does not happen ... the government will order an intervention by the state police,” he added.
Catalonia’s government would respond to the questions raised in the letter, spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said on Tuesday, without saying when or going into further detail. She repeated calls for dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
Spain’s previous conservative government took control of the region when the regional administration unilaterally declared independence following the Oct. 1, 2017 referendum.
Many of the Catalan politicians that took part in the declaration are in prison awaiting trial for rebellion or in exile.
Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez — who came to power in June — has said he is open to a referendum on greater autonomy and has promised to lay out detailed plans in parliament on Wednesday.
But Grande-Marlaska said the local authorities had to show they could keep order and prevent a repeat of Saturday’s protests.
“It was observed that there was no intervention (by the regional police) ... a reality that is difficult to deny,” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.


Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

Updated 15 min 27 sec ago

Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

  • All 10 people had denied the charges, and said they were tortured
  • The defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents

SAINT PETERSBURG: A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017.
Abror Azimov, a 29-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, was sentenced by a military court in Russia’s second biggest city to life in prison for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.
Ten other people who are also from Central Asia were sentenced to between 19 and 28 years in prison.
All had denied the charges, and said they were tortured.
Shokhista Karimova, 48, pounded the glass of the courtroom cage and cried “let me go” after she was handed a 20-year term.
The bomb blast in April 2017 killed 15 people in the Saint Petersburg metro and wounded dozens more.
The alleged perpetrator, Akbarjon Djalilov, a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, died in the attack.
Ten of the defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, notably by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents.
The charges ranged from organizing a terrorist group and perpetrating an “act of terror” to weapons trafficking and making explosive devices.
Critics of the case say the defendants’ connection to the attack was not proven and some claimed they were framed by Russia’s FSB security service.
The suspects had been arrested in different Russian cities and detained in Moscow before being transferred to Saint Petersburg for the trial.
The prosecution said the defendants formed two “terrorist cells” in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and helped Djalilov by wiring him money and providing the explosives.
Defense lawyers and prison monitors have pointed to numerous irregularities in the case however and claim that evidence was planted.
One defendant claimed he was kidnapped from a hospital in Kyrgyzstan, while another said last month that they had been framed by the FSB after it “missed the terrorist.”
The bombing was claimed by an obscure group, the Imam Shamil Battalion, which experts say is linked to Al-Qaeda.