More than 700 mayors in Catalonia under investigation for aiding banned referendum

Some 600,000 people were estimated to have taken part in Monday's pro-independence march.
Some 600,000 people were estimated to have taken part in Monday's pro-independence march. / AFP
  • As preparations continue for the controversial 1 October vote, the regional police chief has told his officers that they should impede it taking place

Spain continued to be gripped this week by the countdown to a banned independence vote in Catalonia organised by the regional government.

Last Friday the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously, as expected, that the decision by the Catalonian parliament last week to approve a law allowing the vote to take place on 1 October was illegal. This prompted the public prosecution office to start to take steps against regional politicians who have been pursuing the vote.

As well as ordering the key players in the regional government to halt the preparations, prosecutors have summonsed all the local mayors in Catalonia who have agreed to help the referendum by opening up council buildings as polling stations and providing staff.

Of the 947 local mayors in the region, 712 who support the vote have been called to declare before a judge to explain their role. The vast majority representing the PDeCAT party have said they will attend court however some mayors from the radical left-wing CUP party have said they will not attend, which could lead to their arrest.

Speaking on regional television on Wednesday, Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont criticised “the climate of great hostility and paranoia” and that “no mayor deserved that treatment”.

Despite earlier fears about legal action, Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau said on Thursday that she had agreed with Puigdemont on the Catalonian capital’s participation.

Other mayors who have refused to use council resources to organise the vote have complained about intimidation and bullying.

The head of the regional police, Josep Lluís Trapero, has sent a note telling officers that they should uphold the court decision and investigate the referendum, despite pro-independence politicians’ protests that they should stay neutral.

Spanish PM defiant

Much of the debate in the Spanish parliament has centred on the crisis in Catalonia this week.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has continued to say he will do all he can within the law to prevent the vote going ahead.

Speaking outside the debating chamber in Congreso on Wednesday he explained: “If you are contacted to staff a polling station, don’t go.”

Meanwhile King Felipe VI has spoken out directly against the referendum for the first time, saying in a speech that “the Constitution will prevail over any disruption to [the country’s] democratic harmony”.

March for independence

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of pro-independence supporters marked Catalonia’s annual regional celebrations, known as the Diada, with a demonstration through the streets of Barcelona.