AN outcry has followed moves by Spanish police to force Barcelona football fans to remove yellow tops worn in support of Catalan political prisoners at a cup final on Saturday.

Some had placards and Estelada flags confiscated and many were photographed by security forces during the high-profile Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla in Madrid.

Police targeted pro-Catalonia fans outside Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Videos posted later on social media showed yellow scarves and banners saying “Freedom for Political Prisoners” being torn from the hands of pro-Catalan supporters.

Josep Maria Bartomeu, the chair of Barcelona FC, was among those who condemned the crackdown and called for an explanation from the Spanish Football Federation.

“Inexplicable. We’re a club that demands freedom of expression,” he said after the game.

Exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is in Germany fighting a Spanish arrest warrant, tweeted: “If now, a simple colour is an offence to the State, where are we going?”

Pro-Catalan independence association Omnium Cultural also criticised the police actions, saying: “Banning yellow in a football stadium is absurd and ridiculous and an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.”

The Spanish police said afterwards that the yellow tops were viewed as threatening to the Spanish Government as well as King Felipe VI and his entourage, who were present at the match.

“Placards or T–shirts whose significance or content could have increased the risk of public order problems or violence in or around the stadium were seized,” said a Spanish police spokesman.

Journalist Jaume Clotet later tweeted: “Spain is becoming an authoritarian state where simple colours are being chased.”

The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) protested: “The Spanish Government also decides how you have to dress for the Cup Final: Spanish police confiscate ANC t-shirts and ‘estelada’ flags! Their new crusade! The solution: republic now!”

The Barcelona football team, who on Saturday secured a 5-0 victory over their opponents, are viewed by the authorities and rival fans as playing an active role in the campaign for Catalan independence.

Centre-back Gerard Pique, who openly supports a Catalan independence referendum, is routinely jeered by Spain fans when he dons the national team jersey.

The yellow jersey movement was started by social activist groups including ANC, Manifest Blaugrana and Omnium. Thousands of Catalans – including the Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, whose yellow ribbon recently resulted in a £20,000 fine from the Football Association – have been wearing yellow to show solidarity with the Catalan independence leaders who face huge jail sentences over last year’s independence referendum.

Guardiola, who was fined for wearing his ribbon during an FA cup match in March, said he would continue to wear it as it was “not about politicians but about democracy”. FA chief executive Martin Glenn insisted it was a political symbol, but Guardiola retorted that he “didn’t understand the reality”.

Meanwhile, Spain has continued its onslaught against institutions in Catalonia by sacking two senior officials – Marina Falco, the general director of foreign relations, and Agusti Colomines, the director of public school administration.

Nine politicians from the deposed Catalan Government, parliament and grassroots organisations remain in jail without trial. Seven more are abroad facing extradition from Scotland, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.