Posts Tagged ‘Catalan’

Puigdemont candidate for Catalan president as Spain seeks arrest

January 22, 2018

AFP

© Scanpix/AFP / by Daniel Bosque with Helene Dauschy in Copenhagen | Spanish prosecutors on Monday sought a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont as he arrived in Copenhagen in his first trip outside of Belgium since he fled to the country.

BARCELONA (AFP) – The speaker of the Catalan parliament on Monday proposed the region’s ousted leader Carles Puigdemont as president of Catalonia, as Spanish prosecutors sought a European warrant for his arrest.Roger Torrent said Puigdemont’s candidacy to once again head Catalonia’s regional government is “absolutely legitimate”, even though the secessionist leader faces criminal proceedings over his role in Catalonia’s independence drive.

In a major blow to the central government in Madrid, separatist parties once again won an absolute majority in the Catalan regional parliament in a snap election in December.

Puigdemont wants to be invested from Belgium, where he fled in late October after the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence. He now faces arrest if he returns to Catalonia over his role in the independence drive.

The Madrid government has ruled out his being allowed to rule from outside the country and even his separatist allies — the leftwing ERC party of Puigdemont’s former deputy Oriol Junqueras — are cool in private to his bid to rule from abroad.

Spanish prosecutors on Monday sought a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont as he arrived in Copenhagen in his first trip outside of Belgium since he fled to the country.

The prosecution service asked Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena to re-issue an arrest warrant for the secessionist leader, sacked by Madrid after the Catalan parliament declared independence, and urge Denmark to hand him over, a judicial source said.

Llarena had dropped a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his deputies who fled to Belgium in early December, saying it would complicate the overall probe into the region’s leaders — but warned they would be arrested if they return.

He is not obliged to agree to the request to re-issue the warrant.

Puigdemont and the rest of his ousted government have been charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over their separatist push.

Danish broadcaster TV2 released an image on its website of Puigdemont being surrounded by reporters after his plane landed in Copenhagen Airport.

On his Twitter feed, Puigdemont confirmed his arrival in the Danish capital, where he is due to take part in a debate at the University of Copenhagen about the secession crisis in the region later on Monday.

– ‘Illegal’ –

Three other separatist lawmakers are already in custody in Spain over their role in Catalonia’s separatist push, including Junqueras, his former deputy.

The parliamentary vote to choose a new Catalan leader is due to take place by the end of January.

The Catalan parliament’s legal experts have said that any presidential contender has to be physically present, but Puigdemont insists he has the legitimate mandate of the people to rule.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated Saturday that governing Catalonia from abroad would be “illegal” and has warned Madrid would maintain its direct control over the region and will take the matter to court if Puigdemont sought remote rule.

Madrid’s direct rule has proven very unpopular in a region that had enjoyed considerable autonomy before its leaders attempted to break away from Spain.

Catalonia’s separatist push has sparked Spain’s biggest constitutional crisis since the country returned to democracy following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and has deeply worried the country’s EU partners.

Having been in Belgium for three months without a residence permit, he would also have to leave, albeit briefly, to conform with EU residence laws.

by Daniel Bosque with Helene Dauschy in Copenhagen
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Former Catalan president in Denmark despite Madrid arrest threat

January 22, 2018

 

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont answers journalists’ questions upon his arrival at Copenhagen airport on January 22. Spain’s prosecution service has said it would “immediately” have a supreme court judge issue a warrant for his arrest if he traveled to Denmark. (AFP)
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COPENHAGEN: Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrived in Copenhagen on Monday, defying a threat by Madrid to issue a warrant for his arrest if he leaves Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid.
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Danish broadcaster TV2 released an image on its website of Puigdemont being surrounded by reporters after his plane landed in Copenhagen Airport.
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A source in his entourage also confirmed his arrival in the Danish capital.
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Puigdemont is to take part in a debate on Catalonia at the University of Copenhagen later Monday.
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His trip comes a day after Spain’s prosecution service said it would “immediately” have a supreme court judge issue a warrant for his arrest if he travels to Denmark, and urge Copenhagen to hand him over.
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Puigdemont fled to Belgium in late October after Madrid sacked his cabinet over their breakaway attempt, but is eyeing a return to power after pro-independence parties won an absolute majority in regional elections in December.
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Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena had dropped a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his deputies who fled to Belgium in early December, saying it would complicate the overall probe into the region’s leaders.
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At home, however, he risks arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
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On Monday, the speaker of the Catalan parliament is due to announce his candidacy to become the president of the region.
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Puigdemont is the favorite but wants to govern the region from exile in order to avoid arrest if he returns to Spain.
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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated Saturday that governing Catalonia from abroad would be “illegal.”
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Spain wants exiled ex-Catalan leader arrested if he travels to Denmark

January 21, 2018

Axed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking after the results of the regional elections in Catalonia. (AFP)
MADRID: Spain wants ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrested if he travels to Denmark for a university debate from his Belgian exile, Madrid prosecutors said Sunday.
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The prosecution service said it would “immediately” have a supreme court judge issue an arrest warrant for the secessionist leader, sacked by Madrid after the Catalan parliament declared independence on October 27, and urge Denmark to hand him over.
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Puigdemont fled to Belgium in late October after Madrid sacked his cabinet over their breakaway attempt, but is eyeing a return to power after pro-independence parties won an absolute majority in regional elections in December.
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At home, however, he risks arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
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Several fellow separatist lawmakers are already in custody in Spain over their role in the regional parliament unilaterally declaring independence on October 27 and Spain’s general prosecutor office said Saturday that “it’s inadmissible that the privilege of parliamentary immunity should be interpreted as impunity.”
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A final decision will rest with the Spanish judge who will have to act in record time to issue the warrant for examination by Danish authorities.
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Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena dropped a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his deputies who fled to Belgium in early December, saying it would complicate the overall probe into the region’s leaders — but warned they would be arrested if they return, retaining a domestic warrant.
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Were a magistrate in another EU state to make a ruling on the secessionists — including to drop charges which could bring a maximum 30 years in jail — Madrid would be bound by that decision.
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Those facing charges say in their defense that under Belgian law there is no case against them. As long as he does not return to Spain, where the warrant remains in place, Puigdemont and his fellow lawmakers are therefore free to move around Europe as they please.
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Puigdemont is due to take part in a debate at the University of Copenhagen about the secession crisis in the region, according to the university website.
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The conference is titled: “Catalonia and Europe at a crossroads for democracy?“
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It will be his first public trip since he arrived in Belgium. Having been in the country for three months without a residence permit, he would also have to leave, albeit briefly, to conform with EU residence laws.
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On Monday, Puigdemont is due to reveal which candidate he is putting forward to lead the region ahead of a debate culminating in a vote at the end of the month.
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He himself is the main candidate but wants to be invested from Belgium in order to avoid arrest if he returns to Catalonia. The Madrid government has ruled out his being allowed to rule from outside the country.
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Catalan ex-VP, three other separatist leaders remain jailed as six to be freed on bail

December 4, 2017

AFP

 

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-04

Catalonia’s sacked vice president and three other separatist leaders will remain in prison pending a probe over their role in the region’s independence drive, a Supreme Court judge decided Monday.

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Oriol Junqueras, who was sacked as vice-president when the Catalan parliament declared independence on October 27, Joaquim Forn, who used to be in charge of interior matters in Catalonia, and the leaders of two pro-independence associations will stay in prison, the court said.

Six other former ministers who were also remanded in custody will be released on bail as an investigation into charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds continues, it added in a statement.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena, who had taken on their case late last month, said he believed there was a risk that Junqueras and the three others would repeat their alleged offences.

This, he added, meant there was a “possibility that acts could happen again with serious, immediate and irreparable consequences for the community.”

He noted as an example a demonstration in Barcelona in September called when police raided a building in a probe into the upcoming banned referendum.

The protest saw angry demonstrators gather outside the building in the city centre late into the night, trapping police inside for hours.

Independence supporters had hoped that all 10 leaders would be released on Monday just as the official campaign for Catalan elections on December 21 is due to kick off at midnight.

The decision comes as former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four other ex-regional ministers face an extradition hearing in Belgium where they fled to after Catalonia declared unilateral independence.

(AFP)

Spanish prime minister refuses to rule out suspending Catalonia’s autonomy

October 8, 2017

Mariano Rajoy says he ‘would like the threat of an independence declaration to be withdrawn as quickly as possible’

Spain: Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy refuses to rule out suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy

AFP

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has refused to dismiss the idea of suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy if its leaders continue to threaten a declaration of independence.

“I don’t rule out anything,” Rajoy told daily newspaper El Pais on Sunday when asked about applying the constitutional provision that allows the suspension. “But I must do things at the proper time … I would like the threat of an independence declaration to be withdrawn as quickly as possible.”

“The ideal would be not to have to take drastic measures,” he said in his first interview with a major newspaper since an outlawed referendum was held on 1 October.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in Barcelona and Madrid amid growing calls for talks following the political crisis sparked by the push for independence.

People dressed in white gathered in both cities under the slogan “Shall we talk?” in a message to Spain’s political leaders. Organisers of the rallies had asked people to not bring any flags, neither Spanish nor Catalan, and to wear white clothing.

Huge numbers are expected to protest again on Sunday in Barcelona against the perceived hijacking of the political process by an independence movement that has so far never won the support of more than 48% of the population.

Since holding the referendum, the wealthy north-east region’s leaders have vowed to make a declaration of independence.

In the interview Rajoy assured Catalan leaders that there was “still time” to backtrack and avoid triggering a tough response from the central government in Madrid.

The prime minister reiterated his refusal “to discuss the unity of the country” stressing that in any case “we don’t talk under threat”.

Commenting on widely criticised police violence during the referendum, Rajoy said that “some mistakes were made” but that the fundamental error had been committed by his adversaries, who have put “national sovereignty” in danger.

Related:

 

Catalan Commission to Investigate Claims of Abuse During Banned Referendum

October 2, 2017

MADRID — Catalonia will create a special commission to investigate claims of abuse by Spanish police during a banned referendum on independence on Sunday after more than 800 people were left injured, leader of region Carles Puigdemont said on Monday.

Thousands of Spanish police were shipped in to the region to prevent the vote on secession though scenes of violence due to heavy-handed tactics by armoured, baton-carrying riot units have received international condemnation.

The vote which the constitutional court banned and Madrid said was illegal, yet still attracted millions of defiant voters, was valid and binding, Puigdemont said during a conference.

The Catalan leader said he had had no contact with Spain’s central government and called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say whether he was in favour of mediation in talks over the region’s future, which should be overseen by the European Union.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)

Spanish police use axes to smash their way into Catalan voting center

October 1, 2017

The Associated Press

Image may contain: outdoor

Spanish Civil Guard officers break through a door at a polling station for the banned independence referendum. Reuters

SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, Spain — Spanish riot police smashed their way into the polling station where Catalonia’s regional leader was due to vote in the disputed independence referendum on Sunday.Scuffles erupted outside between police and people waiting to vote.

Civil Guard officers, wearing helmets and carrying shields, used a hammer to break the glass of the front door and a lock cutter to break into the Sant Julia de Ramis sports center near the city of Girona. At least one woman was injured outside the building and wheeled away on a stretcher by paramedics.

Clashes broke out less than an hour after polls opened, and not long before Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont was expected to turn up to vote. Polling station workers inside the building reacted peacefully and broke out into songs and chants challenging the officers’ presence.

National Police and Civil Guard officers also showed up in other polling centers where Catalan officials were expected.

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Catalans defied rain and police orders to leave designated polling stations for the banned referendum on the region’s secession that has challenged Spain’s political and institutional order.

The country’s Constitutional Court has suspended the vote and the Spanish central government says it’s illegal.

Regional separatist leaders have pledged to hold it anyway, promising to declare independence if the “yes” side wins, and have called on 5.3 million eligible voters to cast ballots.

Reporters with The Associated Press saw ballot boxes wrapped in plastic bags being carried into some of the polling stations in Barcelona occupied by parents, children and activists before some polling stations could open at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) as scheduled.

The plastic ballot boxes, bearing the seal of the Catalan regional government, were placed on tables, prompting the cheering of hopeful voters that had gathered in schools before dawn.

Some 2,300 facilities had been designated as polling stations, but it was unclear how many were able to open. The Ministry of Interior didn’t provide a number late on Saturday when it said that “most” of them had been sealed off and that only “some” remained occupied.

Police have received orders to avoid the use of force and only have been warning people to vacate the facilities. They are also supposed to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.

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In an effort to overcome myriad obstacles, Catalan officials announced that voters would be allowed to cast ballots in any location and using ballots printed at home, rather than in designated polling stations as previously announced.

Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull also said that a group of “academics and professionals” would serve as election observers. The official electoral board appointed by the regional parliament was disbanded last week to avoid hefty fines by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“We are under conditions to be able to celebrate a self-determination referendum with guarantees,” Turull said in a press conference. “Our goal is that all Catalans can vote.”

Tension has been on the rise since the vote was called in early September, crystalizing years of defiance by separatists in the affluent region, which contributes a fifth of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro economy ($1.32 trillion.)

Spain’s 2008-2013 financial crisis and harsh austerity measures fueled frustration in Catalonia for setbacks in efforts to gain greater autonomy, with many Catalans feeling they could do better on their own.

Courts and police have been cracking down for days to halt the vote, confiscating 10 million paper ballots and arresting key officials involved in the preparations. On Saturday, Civil Guard agents dismantled the technology to connect voting stations, count the votes and vote online, leading the Spanish government to announce that holding the referendum would be “impossible.”

Joaquim Bosch, a 73-year-old retiree at Princep de Viana high school, where a crowd of 20 people was growing Sunday morning, said he was uneasy about a possible police response to the crowds.

Related:

Independence vote: Police seize Catalan referendum ballot boxes

October 1, 2017

Catalan officials have told people to print their own ballots and vote at any open polling station as police confiscate ballot boxes and surround voting spots. Thousands of officers are in Catalonia to stop the vote.

Catalan police watching a polling station (Getty Images/AFP/C. Manso)

Spanish police and Civil Guard officers have begun seizing ballot boxes and voting papers, the country’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday. Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that confrontations between voters and police had occurred in Barcelona.

“These are the first ballot boxes and ballots seized by police in Barcelona. Officers are continuing their deployment in Catalonia,” the Interior Ministry said in a Twitter message that included a picture of four plastic ballot boxes and piles of ballots.

Ballot papers with the seal of the Catalan government and boxes had appeared at dozens of referendum sites in Catalonia overnight Sunday amid chants of “Votarem” (We will vote), despite earlier claims by the Spanish government that it had succeeded in stopping the “illegal” referendum.

DW’s Mariel Müller was on hand when the boxes arrived at one school.

Many supporters of Catalan independence spent the night in schools and other polling places in an effort to keep them open until voting begins Sunday at 9 a.m. (0700 UTC). A government official said parents and students were “peacefully” occupying 163 schools.

Thousands of people began to stand in line outside polling stations on Sunday morning from 5 a.m. local time.

Around the same time, 30 civil guard vans and trucks with police left Barcelona port. Police have been brought in from other regions of Spain to prevent the vote taking place. At one, a Barcelona school, organizers asked people to use passive resistance if police intervened, Reuters news agency reported.

Catalan government officials said Saturday morning that people could use ballots they print at home and vote at any open polling station if their designated booth was closed.

 

Read more: Catalan independence – what you need to know

Resolving a serious political battle

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called for “mediation” Saturday to resolve the “serious” political battle dividing his regional authority from the central government in Madrid.

“If the yes wins, if the no wins — in any scenario there must be mediation because things aren’t working,” he said in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Puigdemont did no say directly who should mediate Spain’s internal feud but indicated that the European Union should fill the void.

“I think that from now it would be logical for the EU to actively monitor [the situation] and actively take an interest,” he said.  “If it doesn’t take an interest in what is happening in Catalonia when everyone is watching and taking an interest, there’s something wrong.”

But Brussels has preferred to sit on the sidelines of what it views as an internal dispute in Spain. The block has only warned Catalans that if they were to secede from Spain they would have to apply for EU membership, which Madrid would have authority to block.

Voting stations blocked

Meanwhile, the Spanish government said the majority of designated voting stations in Catalonia had been shut down to prevent the banned referendum from going ahead.

Watch video02:50

Catalan referendum — Stay or go?

Madrid, which has declared the referendum illegal, has vowed to block the poll. Thousands of extra police have been deployed to the northeastern region with orders to evacuate and shut down potential voting stations by 6 a.m. on Sunday. Police have been given orders to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes and to refrain from using force.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis called Catalonia’s plan to hold the independence referendum “a mockery of democracy.”

Organizers press ahead with vote

Despite government efforts to prevent the vote from taking place, Catalan leaders say it will go ahead as planned.

Puigdemont insisted that everything was set-up so that the referendum “takes place normally.” He said his supporters would cast ballots on Sunday as planned.

At a press conference Friday, Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras said that if “someone closes a polling station, there is an alternative for citizens to vote,” without giving further details.

Referendum organizers asked voters to turn up at 7 a.m. ahead of the polls opening at 9 a.m. “We must organize it so that there are long queues to give the image to the world that we are going to vote,” instructions sent to voters read.

“Act in a peaceful way and do not respond to any provocation, from other citizens or from police.”

Huge protests

Thousands of people gathered in central Madrid on Saturday to protest against the planned secession vote. Waving Spanish flags, they chanted “Viva Espana,” “Spanish unity” and “Catalonia is Spain.” Some of the protesters also called for pro-independence Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to be put in jail.

DW journalist Peter Geoghegan was in Barcelona during a Spanish unity rally while DW’s Mariel Müller could not find anyone ready to vote “no” in the referendum.

Met plenty of anti independence supporters in Barcelona too. ‘Spain is a family. Catalonia is part of that family’. None said they’ll vote

Catalans get ready for disputed . I spoke to some about the reasons for their decision. (I couldn’t find a “No” voter)

The unity demonstration was the largest in the Spanish capital since the referendum was called earlier this year. Similar rallies also took place in other cities, including Malaga, Cordoba, Seville, Santander, Palma de Mallorca and Zaragoza.

The atmosphere was different in Catalonia’s regional capital Barcelona on Friday night, as huge crowds turned out to show their support for the independence campaign. Earlier in the day, farmers drove tractors through the center of the city, vowing to help protect polling stations from police.

A demonstration for Catalan independenceProtesters wave Catalan flags at an independence campaign rally in Barcelona

A large majority of Catalans back the idea of holding a legitimate referendum, but they are split over independence itself.

jm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

http://www.dw.com/en/independence-vote-police-seize-catalan-referendum-ballot-boxes/a-40750567

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Spain, Catalonia Clash Over Policing as Illegal Independence Vote Nears

September 23, 2017

MADRID — The mounting political crisis in Spain over Catalonia’s campaign for independence intensified on Saturday with a new row over the control of the local police force as the regional government pressed ahead with plans to hold an illegal vote next weekend.

The State prosecutor in Catalonia told all local and national police forces on Saturday that they had been temporarily placed under a single chain of command reporting directly to the interior ministry in Madrid.

But Catalonia’s interior chief, Joaquim Forn, said his department and the local police, or Mossos d’Esquadra, did not accept this decision.

“We denounce the intervention of the state to control the police forces of Catalonia … We will not accept this control,” Forn said in a televised speech.

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Spain’s government moves to halt independence vote for Catalonia, sparking protests

It was not immediately clear whether the regional administration and the Mossos could actually oppose the decision, as Spanish laws allow for the possibility of state police taking the lead over the police of an autonomous community during a joint operation.

The central government representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, had earlier said the Mossos remained in charge of security in Catalonia though they would be “coordinated” directly by the interior ministry and not by the local authorities, together with two national police forces also on the ground in Catalonia.

“We are not taking over the police competencies of the regional government,” Millo told reporters after an event held by his People’s Party (PP) in Palma de Mallorca, in Eastern Spain.

Millo also called on Catalan leaders, including Forn, to stop encouraging street protests and demonstrations.

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Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia said the prosecutor’s order would remain in place until at least Oct. 1, when the vote is due to take place.

The Mossos are one of the symbols of Catalonia’s autonomy and for many Catalans the prosecutor’s decision may be reminiscent of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco, when the Mossos were abolished.

Several pro-independence groups have called for widespread protests on Sunday in central Barcelona.

“Let’s respond to the state with an unstoppable wave of democracy,” a Whatsapp message which was used to organize the demonstration read.

The Catalonian government opened a new website on Saturday with details of how and where to vote on Oct. 1, challenging several court rulings that had blocked previous sites and declared the referendum unconstitutional.

“You can’t stem the tide,” Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont said on Twitter in giving the link to the new website.

But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted again that the vote should not go ahead.

“It will not happen because this would mean liquidating the law,” he said at the PP event in Palma de Mallorca.

Acting on court orders, the Spanish state police has already raided the regional government offices, arrested temporarily several senior Catalan officials accused of organizing the referendum and seized ballot papers, ballot boxes, voting lists and electoral material and literature.

The finance ministry in Madrid has also taken control of regional finances to make sure public money is not being spent to pay for the logistics the vote or to campaign.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 police officers coming from other Spanish regions have already arrived in Catalonia or are on their way. They will join 5,000 state police already based in the region and 17,000 local Mossos.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

EU nervous as tensions mount ahead of Catalan independence vote — ‘Ticking bomb’

September 22, 2017

AFP

© Lluis Gene, AFP | Catalan protesters hold letters forming the word “Independence”.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-09-22

As Catalonia’s independence referendum crisis deepens, EU officials are staying doggedly tight-lipped even as diplomats privately voice serious concern at a situation some regard as a challenge to fundamental European values.

The Catalan government’s plans to hold a vote on October 1 in defiance of court orders ruling it illegal have triggered major protests in Barcelona and a major crackdown from Madrid.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has condemned the “totalitarian and undemocratic attitude of the Spanish state”, after police detained over a dozen Catalan government officials and seized nearly 10 million ballot papers.

But the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has steadfastly refused to comment in detail on what it regards as an internal matter for Spain.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas fended off nearly a dozen questions on the Catalan crisis at a news conference on Thursday with variations on the same response: “The commission respects Spain’s constitutional order and legal framework.”

From Paris to Bratislava, EU members echoed the same phrasing as they publicly closed ranks behind Madrid in a standoff that Spanish former European Parliament president Josep Borrell told Politico this week had the potential to be “the biggest European constitutional crisis since the fall of the Berlin Wall”.

‘Ticking bomb’

Jeremy Dodeigne, professor of political science at Belgium’s University of Namur told AFP that while the EU could not go against the Spanish government, it would also be reluctant to alienate regional groupings like Catalonia, which are important to development programmes.

“At the moment the crisis is too deep and this is too much of a gamble for the EU to take sides or interfere — it’s clearly too sensitive at the moment,” he said.

Moreover, regional separatist movements are a sensitive topic for a number of EU members.

>> Amid calls for independence, Catalonians for a unified Spain struggle to be heard

The crisis has caused even deeper alarm than the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 — which was at least held with the legal consent of London.

“Recognising Catalonia would create a terrible precedent for the EU, one which Brussels would find very hard to manage and which every separatist movement would try to use in future,” Dan Dungaciu, the head of the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations of the Romanian Academy told AFP.

“The EU’s silence is a response in itself: Brussels doesn’t even want to consider the question. It’s a ticking bomb.”

A simple mistranslation of a comment by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the crisis last week caused days of questions and clarifications in Brusssels when it erroneously appeared that he had said he would respect a ‘Yes’ vote.

In fact what he said was that he would “respect the rulings of the Spanish constitutional court and the Spanish parliament” — in other words the EU would only recognise a Catalan independence vote if it was carried out with Madrid’s blessing.

CATALONIA IS “DEPENDENT FOR FINANCING ON THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT” – FRANCE 24’S SARAH MORRIS

The sensitivity of the issue was also shown when Hungary’s government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs had to quickly backtrack after saying that the “will of the people” should be respected in Catalonia.

Zoltan Kovacs initially told reporters on Monday when asked about the Catalonia referendum: “The will of the people is what matters” before swiftly stressing that it was an “internal issue for the Spanish and Catalonian people”.

Behind the united public front, the wave of arrests by Spain’s Guardia Civil police force this week has caused private alarm among EU states.

“Even if they are acting within the law, the Spanish government is handling this situation very badly. Dispatching the Guardia Civil to make arrests sends out a very bad signal,” a Europan diplomat in Brussels told AFP.

Another high-ranking diplomat said that while the matter was one for Spain, “we are following the whole process with great, great concern”.

‘Fundamental rights’

But Amadeu Altafaj, the Catalan government’s representative to the EU, said that by dismissing it as an internal matter, Brussels was failing in its duty to uphold broader democratic principles.

“This is not only about independence, yes or no, is not only about the relationship between Catalonia and Spain… beyond this debate, this is actually about democratic standards in EU,” he told reporters.

(AFP)

Includes videos:

http://www.france24.com/en/20170922-eu-nervous-tensions-mount-ahead-catalan-independenct-vote