FC Barcelona player Gerard Piqué said on Saturday that Catalan leaders currently on trial in Madrid “are not guilty.” Piqué, who previously said the trial is “highly unfair” insisted that he should be free to speak out his mind on current issues.

A high-profile Spanish radio journalist accused Piqué of being “stupid” (a ‘cretino’, in Spanish) for discussing politics and criticizing the trial against Catalan leaders. The football player asked for some “respect” and said he only “expressed an opinion.”

“We are public people and we have our own opinions. I already said the trial seems unfair to me. I’ve lived in Catalonia and these people are not guilty. They didn’t attack anyone, there was no violence, everything was done peacefully,” he added.

Respect

Piqué went on to say that Spain’s problem is that “no one listens to each other.” The football player said that one can disagree with him but asked people to avoid “insults” and to be “respectful.” “That’s what my parents thought me” he added.

The football player said: “This has nothing to do with independence, we are talking about the future of some people that don’t deserve to spent 20 years in prison for what they did. That’s my opinion and I ask for it to be respected.”

Twelve Catalan politicians and activists are currently on trial in Spain’s Supreme Court for their role in the 2017 independence referendum. Nine of them are in pre-trial jail, and have been behind bars for more than a year.