Spain threatens to arrest over 700 Catalan pro-referendum mayors

APTOPIX Spain Catalonia

On Wednesday, the country's top prosecutor, Jose Manuel Maza, ordered provincial prosecutors to investigate 712 mayors who have already offered municipal facilities for the October 1 vote and the regional Catalan police to arrest them if they don't show up for testimony.

If the "Yes" side wins the vote, Catalonia's regional government has vowed to declare independence within 48 hours and set about building a sovereign state.

Spain's Constitutional Court has suspended a referendum law that was fast-tracked through Catalonia's regional parliament last week but the Catalan government has vowed to go ahead with the vote nonetheless.

"What is happening is that people are looking to have more control over their lives; they are looking for much more in terms of a say in how their lives are run", he said.

The Spanish government is trying to stop the planned October 1 ballot through the courts.

Police were ordered on Tuesday to seize ballot boxes, along with election flyers or any item that could be used in the banned referendum, AFP reported. Maza said the possible charges against the mayors are the same as those for Puigdemont and his ministers who signed the decree calling the referendum: disobedience, abuse of power, and alleged embezzlement of public funds, which carry possible sentences of up to eight years in prison.


Commenting for the first time on the political crisis, Spain's King Felipe VI said people should respect Spain's constitution, which forbids secession.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is fighting to stop the ballot and he appealed to Catalans to ignore calls from independence supporters to turn out.

Rajoy's conservative government argues the vote violates the constitution, which states that only central authorities can call a referendum.

"If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don't go, because the referendum can't take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act", the prime minister said.

The economically powerful Catalonia has a thriving population of 7.5 million and accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output.

Around one million Catalans rallied in Barcelona on Monday, waving red and yellow striped flags and banging drums, in a show of support for independence after Madrid moved to block a referendum on the region's split from Spain.

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