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Watch: 'Democracy is not above the law,' says Spain's ambassador to Malta

José Pons discusses the Catalan question on Times Talk

Video clips of Catalans being hit and manhandled by police have been politicised and blown out of proportion, Spain's ambassador to Malta has said.

In this Times Talk interview held before Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said he was willing to negotiate with Spain, ambassador José Pons insisted police had had their hand forced.

"The use of violence was really, really reduced. I'm surprised this has been turned into a political issue. We have many riots in Italy, Germany, France and police were using force," José Pons says in this Times Talk interview.

READ: Catalan leader puts off independence to focus on talks

There were no riots in Catalonia, but instead clashes over an attempt to force through an independence referendum declared illegal by Spanish courts.

Nobody, ambassador Pons says, was targeted for voting and police had only clashed with those who tried to prevent them from fulfiling the court's orders.

"Police had a mandate to close police stations. And if 200, 300 people are opposing police, they have two possibilities: go back, or enforce the decision," he says. "We don't like to see violence but police have to do their job."

If things spiralled out of control, the ambassador said, much of the blame lay with Catalan police. Had they followed the court's orders, he argues, the civil guard would never have gotten involved and "none of the images we've seen would have happened."

'Democracy is not above the law'

The ambassador has little time for those who insist Catalans should have been allowed to vote regardless, again insisting the courts had been ignored.

"Democracy is not above the law. Nobody has the right to vote regardless of the law."

Ambassador Pons admits things did not play out as expected, but refused to be dragged into a game of hypotheticals.

"It's easy now to say the government should have done this or this. The constitutional court had issued a clear mandate to impede [the referendum]."

Would Mr Puigdemont end up behind bars?

"I cannot speculate," the ambassador sighed, before adding "I have a friend who says that in democracy, if one man does everything possible to go to prison, he has a 99 per cent chance of ending up in prison."

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