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In his first action as president of Catalonia when he took office last year, Quim Torra hung a banner from the government palace with a yellow loop and a message in Catalan reading "Release political prisoners and exiles". Last week, the Central Election Commission instructed him to remove it. He ignored their first deadline, after which they set another one for this week. That came and went yesterday with, again, Torra arguing against having to.

Then today, in response to a request from Torra to look at the question, the Catalan ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, said the symbols should be removed from public buildings during the election period to remain their neutrality. In response, Torra has now issued a statement saying that he will keep his promise to follow the ombudsman's recommendation. He insists, however, that the yellow loop isn't a partisan symbol and that he is committed "to freedom of expression in the public space, which doesn't have to be neutral, but free".

He also repeats his position from yesterday that he will leave it up to individual ministries and the staffs of other public buildings to make their own decisions as to whether to leave or remove symbols on their own property. As for the government palace itself, sources close to the president say he won't give in.


An "imaginative response"

The idea appears to be that instead of removing the banner and leaving the space empty, it will be replaced with some alternative symbol. One option under consideration is a canvas painted yellow. Other ideas include a message referring to the Electoral Commission's ban or lighting the building up in yellow. Government sources say they are looking for an "imaginative" response.

The Electoral Commission is due to meet this Thursday at 5pm local time in the Congress in Madrid. If the banner is still not down, they could order the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police) to remove it. They could also pursue charges of disobedience against Torra.