The former head of a pro-independence group in Spain's Catalonia region says he will fight to get the European Court of Human Rights to overturn his sedition conviction and to secure amnesty from Spain.
Jordi Sánchez, who was president of the grassroots group ANC before his arrest and detention, said he thinks the 9-year prison term Spain's Supreme Court gave him Monday was "unfair" for actions "of political nature."
Sánchez told The Associated Press his ultimate goal is getting Spain to grant amnesty that acknowledges he and 11 other Catalan separatists didn't commit any crimes when they pushed for secession in 2017.
An aide conveyed the imprisoned Sánchez' answers to the AP's questions on Tuesday.
Spain's center-left caretaker government has not specifically ruled out an official pardon for the Catalan politicians and activists.
Sánchez said securing a government pardon would require expressing contrition and therefore, "In the name of democracy, I can't accept this blackmail."
He said: "I won't contribute to making bigger the damage that Spain's justice has done to political rights."
A line of riot police has charged a mass of demonstrators in Barcelona after some in the crowd protesting the convictions of Catalan separatists lit a fire in the street, set off firecrackers, kicked metal barricades and taunted officers.
The greatly outnumbered riot police went in with shields and batons ready to hit protesters in their path, striking legs, shoulders, arms and backs. They pushed the knot of people back hundreds of yards. Some were herded along the sidewalk with their hands up.
A few remained where they were, objecting as people struck by the batons limped away or lay on the ground.
The crowd dispersed quickly after that while the sounds of sirens and firecrackers continued.
Thousands of Catalan separatists are protesting for a second straight day over the Spanish court ruling that imprisoned nine independence leaders and the conviction of three others.
Protesters held vigils at the gates of the Spanish government's delegations in all of Catalonia's four provincial capitals.
Riot police charged at some of the protesters after some of them hurled objects at the officers and kicked the temporary fences put in place to protect the building.
The protesters sang the Catalan anthem and shouted, "The streets will always be ours," ''Independence," as well as slogans calling Spanish police "occupying forces" and urging them to leave Catalonia.
Vigils were also being held in Girona, Lleida and Tarragona, as well as smaller towns across Catalonia.
They had been called by ANC and Omnium, two grassroots pro-secession groups whose leaders Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart were sentenced on Monday to nine years in prison for sedition.
The "Jordis," as they are known popularly, spent nearly two years in pre-trial detention, a cause of anger for many in Catalonia.
Fugitive ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has joined dozens of pro-Catalonia independence supporters in a protest outside the European Commission a day after the conviction of 12 colleagues in Spain for their role in a secession push led by him in 2017.
Puigdemont said "we need the whole support of European democrats. Because that crisis concerns European democracy and the quality of European democracy. It is not a Catalan, a regional or a Spanish issue."
A Spanish judge has issued a new international arrest order for Puigdemont. His colleagues say he is willing to cooperate with Belgian police and authorities.
Puigdemont and other Catalan representatives fleeing justice in Spain demand international institutions end their silence and help create a dialogue between the Spanish government and Catalan pro-independence authorities.
Convicted Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart says the politicians and activists sentenced for their roles in a 2017 push for Catalan independence will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the court conviction is a European affair.
Cuixart told The Associated Press by email via his lawyer Tuesday that "we have the moral obligation to denounce this (Spain's) authoritarian drift and appeal to European citizens to defend human rights."
Cuixart, who heads Omnium Cultural, one of two activist groups that has spearheaded the Catalan independence movement, said the 12 convicted Monday must first appeal to Spain's Constitutional Court before approaching Europe.
Cuixart was sentenced to nine years. He said they would also seek an amnesty "as a resolution to this political conflict."
Authorities in Catalonia say three people were arrested and more than 170 injured, including about 40 police officers, during clashes between protesters and baton-wielding anti-riot police at Barcelona's international airport and elsewhere across the northeastern Spanish region.
The clashes that started late Monday stemmed from an online call by Tsunami Democratic, a loose grassroots group, following the conviction of a dozen separatist leaders at the forefront of Catalonia's secession bid two years ago.
Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said authorities are investigating the group.
Spain's airport operator, AENA, said more than 1,000 flights were scheduled to operate normally in Barcelona Tuesday, after at least 110 were cancelled the day before.
Thousands of passengers were stranded at the airport, with many forced to walk with their luggage on highways and across fields.
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