Spain's Catalan foreign minister slams 'totalitarian' separatism

Madrid (AFP) –


Spain's Catalan foreign minister on Tuesday accused separatists of acting in a "totalitarian" way by excluding those in the region who were not in favour of breaking away from Spain.

"The root of the problem is that the independence movement is ignoring the Catalan identity of those who are not pro-secession," Josep Borrell, the European Union's incoming foreign policy chief, told journalists in Madrid.

"When you exclude one part, it becomes a totalitarian act."

Borrell was speaking a day after Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine separatist leaders from Catalonia to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in a failed independence bid.

The ruling triggered protests across the wealthy northeastern region that sometimes turned violent.

The head of Catalonia's separatist regional government, Quim Torra, said the verdict showed "contempt for Catalan society" which "will know how to respond to this ingominy in the way that it always has, with determination and firmness."

But Borrell said not all Catalans felt the same way about the verdict.

"When I hear people say that the Catalan people think like Torra does, my reaction is: hey, I'm Catalan and I don't think like you. You cannot say all Catalans think like me," he said.

"To repeat over and over that the Catalans feel affected by the sentence - well, no."

Polls show Catalonia, which is home to some 7.5 million people and accounts for about one fifth of the Spanish economy, is divided on the issue of independence.

A survey released in July by the Catalan's government's own polling firm showed 48.3 percent of Catalans oppose secession while 44 percent are in favour.