Police, protesters clash over seizure of artwork in Catalonia

By Daniel Uria  |  Dec. 12, 2017 at 8:57 PM
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Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Police clashed with protesters in Catalonia as 44 pieces of artwork were removed from a Catalan museum.

Spain's culture minister, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, received an order from a judge Monday to remove the works, which include paintings, alabaster reliefs and polychromatic wooden coffins, from a museum in the Catalan city of Lleida and return them to the neighboring region of Aragon.

About 500 demonstrators gathered outside the museum and engaged in scuffles with police amid frustrations about the Spanish government's decision to seize control of Catalonia using Article 155 of the Constitution.

"Hands up! This is a robbery!" some protesters shouted.

Lleida Mayor Angel Ros said Article 155 didn't apply to the seizure of "sacred art."

"There is still a long way to go to resolve the litigation over these goods," he said. "We will use all legal means to show that the purchase, by the [Catalan government] was made in accordance with the law and that the works were transferred to the Museum of Lleida with full legality and legitimacy."

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont wrote a tweet accusing the Spanish government of using the cover of night and the Guardia Civil to "take advantage of a coup d'état to plunder Catalonia with absolute impunity."

The Catalan government purchased the works from the nuns of the Sijena convent in Aragon in the 1980s, although Argonese authorities have argued they were unlawfully sold.

Mayte Perez, the head of the culture department at the government of Aragon, said the Catalan government ignored court orders to surrender the pieces for two years.

"Justice is being done," Perez said.

She said the removal of the museum pieces had nothing to do with politics or the Spanish government's decision to seize Catalonia and remove Puigdemont from office.

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