MADRID was accused of plundering Catalonia yesterday after police swooped at 3am to remove artefacts from a regional museum.
The Spanish government had ordered the retrieval of 44 medieval items stored in the Catalan Museum of Lleida.
The artworks were bought by the Catalan government from Aragon’s Sijena monastery in the 1980s.
However, the legality of the sale was contested amid claims that the items were sold illegally by the monastery’s nuns and a court case declared the deal null and void in 2015.
Clashes took place between police and protesters, who had gathered to block the removals ordered by Culture Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo using temporary powers granted after Madrid took direct control of Catalonia after the region’s declaration of independence in October.
The move was condemned as political, with former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont accusing the Spanish government of “plundering Catalonia.”
“In the middle of the night and using a militarised police, as always, they are taking advantage of a coup d’etat to plunder Catalonia with absolute impunity,” he said.
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) party spokesman Joan Tarda branded the removal of the artwork an “attempt to humiliate” Catalonia.
The move has inflamed feeling ahead of Catalan regional elections scheduled for December 21, though a poll published by newspaper La Vanguardia on Sunday predicted defeat for the secessionists.
It suggested that the three pro-independence parties — the ERC, the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) and Mr Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya — would win 66 or 67 of the seats on the election, just short of the 68 needed to secure a majority in the Catalan parliament.
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