Spain threatens to arrest 700 Catalan mayors over independence vote

Catalonia's polarization escalates

Catalonia's polarization escalates

Separatists 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.

A spokeswoman for the central government's representative in the wealthy northeastern region put the turnout lower, at around 350,000 people.

Catalan officials who help organize the vote risk being charged with disobedience, prevarication, and misuse of public funds.

So far over 700 mostly smaller municipalities have agreed to participate.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy's government were granted a suspension by the Constitutional Court while judges decide on the legality of the poll.

The head of Catalonia's regional government, Carles Puigdemont, told journalists on Monday: "It's not an option that the referendum won't go ahead".

With Spain's central government promising to block the referendum, the pro-independence camp is keen to show that it can rally its troops - especially after participation in the "Diada" declined a year ago.

"I trust they will be left in peace and not be obliged to do what they can not", Catala told RTVE television. "13.09.2017.pdf">vowed to provide logistical support for a referendum on independence called for October 1 in defiance of a ban by the Constitutional Court.

The referendum, which was approved in the separatist-dominated regional parliament, has been suspended by Spain's constitutional court but Catalan leaders have vowed to hold it regardless.

Police have searched a Catalan printing house and a local weekly newspaper suspected of making ballots for the referendum while Spain's state prosecutor has launched criminal proceedings against Puigdemont and other Catalan officials. Catalan society is deeply divided over independence. But about 70 percent wanted a referendum, to settle the question once and for all.

Spain's prime minister is urging the people of Catalonia to refrain from taking part in a planned referendum on the region's independence that he says is unconstitutional.

Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium, accounts for one-fifth of Spain's economic output.

During the 2013 "Diada" demonstrators formed a human chain that crossed Catalonia.

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