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Spain summons Catalan mayors over independence vote

Spain summons Catalan mayors over independence vote
From Al Jazeera - September 13, 2017

Spain's state prosecutor has ordered a criminal probe of all 700-plus Catalan mayors who have backed an independence referendum, as Madrid seeks to block the separatist vote it deems illegal.

The country's prosecutor office on Wednesday ordered the 712 mayors, who have agreed to help stage the October 1 vote, to be summoned to court as official suspects and called for their arrest in case of a refusal to appear for questioning.

Catalonia's regional parliament passed laws last week to prepare for the October referendum.

Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the vote after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy challenged it in the courts.

Judges are now considering whether the legislation contravenes Spain's constitution, which states that the country is indivisible.

OPINION: Catalonia's declaration of independence

Spain's state prosecutor had vowed to present criminal charges to members of the Catalan parliament who voted in favour of the region holding a referendum on independence.

So far, 712 of a total 948 municipal leaders have said they would allow public spaces to be used for the referendum, although the mayor of the region's most populous area - the city of Barcelona - has yet to take a definitive position.

Wednesday's ruling increases the pressure on Catalan officials just one day before the pro-separatist camp officially kicks off its referendum campaign in the Mediterranean port of Tarragona.

"They ca not arrest us, they are crazy!," David Rovira, the pro-separatist mayor of L'Espluga de Francoli, a town of some 3,800 residents, told AFP news agency, adding that Madrid had "proposed nothing" to appease Catalonia's demands for greater autonomy.

Joan Rabasseda, the separatist mayor of Arenys de Munt which in 2009 became the first town in Catalonia to hold a symbolic independence referendum, told AFP that he was simply "obeying" the law calling the referendum passed by Catalonia's regional parliament.

'Illegal act'

The ruling comes a day after prosecutors ordered police in Catalonia to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and any other item that could be used in the referendum.

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