Prosecutors in Catalonia on Tuesday ordered police to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and another object that could be used in a banned independence referendum known as by the Spanish region’s separatist government.
The vote is set for October 1 and the northeastern region’s separatists are decided to go ahead with it despite Madrid’s refusal and a court ban, as the struggle among Catalonia and Spain’s central government escalates.
On Tuesday, the chiefs of the Guardia Civil and national Police forces, and of the Mossos d’Esquadra — a local squad controlled by the Catalan government — had been referred to as to the prosecutor’s office in Barcelona.
They have been then ordered to do so against government, civil servants or individuals “to avoid offences being committed,” prosecutors stated in a statement after the meeting.
Under Spanish law, prosecutors have the power to provide commands to judicial police forces in investigating offences, as do judges.
“police officers… will immediately adopt the measures important to seize resources destined at making ready or protecting an unlawful referendum,” they stated in the statement.
In particular, they ordered police to confiscate objects which includes “poll boxes, electoral envelopes, practise manuals for individuals of polling stations, election flyers, election propaganda.”
Catalonia’s pro-independence government, headed up through regional president Carles Puigdemont, called the referendum last week and that they have vowed to look it through despite a ban by high Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government and the Constitutional court.
Prosecutors have released an official complaint against Puigdemont and individuals of his government, accusing them of civil disobedience, misfeasance and misappropriation of public funds — the latter carrying prison sentences of up to 8 years.
However the order given to the police forces leaves the Mossos d’Esquadra particularly in a tough spot.
On the one hand, by law they need to observe prosecutors’ orders, but they may be also at once depending on the nearby government against which they have been informed to act.
Justice Minister Rafael Catala advised Spanish tv that “the Mossos are there to serve citizens, all of them, not only a few.”
– ‘hold people safe’ –
Puigdemont, meanwhile, requested that the Catalan police force be left alone.
“Their major characteristic is to keep people secure,” he instructed Rac1 radio.
“That’s their priority,” he introduced, refusing to say whether he could in turn inform the Mossos to disregard prosecutors’ orders.
Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said the local police force should recognition on the “fight against jihadist terrorism considering the level of threat” following the assaults remaining month in Barcelona and the seaside hotel of Cambrils that killed 16 people.
In the meantime in Madrid, Spain’s Constitutional court temporarily suspended a Catalan regulation that outlines the terms of a transition to an independent state while judges recall arguments that it breaches the country’s constitution.
Consistent with court regulations, the suspension lasts for five months while the judges give you a ruling.
The regulation is supposed to take impact only if the separatists win the referendum.
The court last week suspended another Catalan law that approved the October 1 independence referendum.
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans rallied on Monday in Barcelona on their national day to demand their region’s secession from Spain and support the right to vote.