People of Catalonia urged to ignore police after direct rule

Protesters wave pro-independence Catalan Estelada flags during a demonstration in Barcelona. Picture: AFP/Getty/Luis Genel
Protesters wave pro-independence Catalan Estelada flags during a demonstration in Barcelona. Picture: AFP/Getty/Luis Genel
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The people of Catalonia should start ignoring the instructions of local police if the Spanish Senate approves the decision to suspend the region’s autonomy, the country’s foreign minister has said.

Alfonso Dastis said Catalans should “disregard” the advice of local authorities if they do not accept Madrid’s plan for direct rule, which was ordered by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last week.

He said that if Catalonia’s regional police force and President Carles Puigdemont failed to fall into line, they should be treated in the same way as a “group of rebels” by the public.

READ MORE: Catalonia tourism down 15% as images of police violence hit industry

Mr Dastis also claimed many of the pictures and videos showing police violence during the controversial independence vote had been faked.

The foreign minister insisted the government was “strictly” following the Spanish constitution with its plan for direct rule, which will be put in front of the Senate within days.

“All the government is trying to do, and reluctantly, is reinstate the legal order, restore the constitution and also the Catalan rules and proceed from there,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Asked what would happen if Mr Puigdemont and the Mossos d’Esquadra regional police force did not accept the government’s terms, he suggested they should be ignored by the public.

“We disregard – and I hope everyone will disregard – whatever instructions they will be planning to give, because they will not have the legal authority to do that,” he said.

He added: “They won’t have the authority, the legal authority, once the Senate has authorised the implementation of the Spanish constitution. They would be equal to a group of rebels trying to impose their own arbitrariness to the people of Catalonia.”

READ MORE: MSPs seek to condemn Madrid over Catalonia

Mr Dastis also claimed that “many” of the pictures of violence that emerged during the referendum were faked, adding: “If there was any use of force, it was a limited one.”

He added: “I am not saying that all are fake pictures, but some of them are. There have been a lot of alternative facts and fake news here.”

Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP who took part in a 35-strong international observer mission during the Catalan referendum, condemned Mr Dastis’s comments.

“It’s a remarkable and unfortunate claim to make when so many people watched what happened live on television, it was captured on social media, and importantly, lots of international observers saw it happen.”

She added: “It undermines the credibility of the Spanish government when senior politicians go on television and say it’s ‘fake news’.”