- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

MADRID (AP) - Barcelona filed an appeal against the Spanish government’s ban on Catalonia’s separatist flags during the Copa del Rey final, saying it was an attack on freedom of expression.

The Catalan club appealed on Thursday, it said, to protect the rights of its fans.

“With actions such as these, FC Barcelona defends, and will continue to defend, freedom of expression of its members and supporters,” the club said in a statement.

Barcelona had already expressed its “total and complete disagreement” with the government’s announcement on Wednesday, four days before the final against Sevilla in Madrid.

“FC Barcelona considers the decision to be an attack on the freedom of expression, the fundamental right of each and every individual to express their ideas and opinions freely and without censorship,” the club said.

Government officials in Madrid said the ban of the politically charged flags was approved as part of security measures being implemented for the game at Vicente Calderon Stadium, the home of Atletico Madrid.

The club said the legal basis of the appeal was also “the lack of grounds for the measure because it presupposes a desire to be offensive with the use of the Estelada flags.”

Barcelona called for “the use of common sense and responsibility,” and demanded the government’s cooperation in “creating the good atmosphere a match such as the Copa del Rey final deserves.”

“FC Barcelona also implores the representative to respect the honor of the institutions involved in this final and to avoid causing any uncomfortable situations,” the club said.

Barcelona has been fined in the past by UEFA because of pro-secession chants and flags displayed by its fans during Champions League matches.

Barcelona fans are expected to be the majority at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday, when the club will be trying to win its second title in a row, following its triumph in the Spanish league last weekend.

Sevilla clinched its third straight Europa League title on Wednesday in the final against Liverpool.


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

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