Catalan govt admits referendum blow but vows to press on

Peter Castro
September 23, 2017

Spanish police arrested 12 people Wednesday in raids on offices of the regional government of Catalonia, news reports said, intensifying a crackdown on the region's preparations for a secession vote that Spain says is illegal.

Civil Guard police this week arrested around a dozen regional government officials and seized about 10 million ballot papers.

The statement said the six remain under investigation for disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement and must appear before court each week.

Spain's Constitutional Court has suspended the October 1 vote while judges assess its legality, but Catalan authorities insist it will take place, and both sides have accused the other of acting illegally and undemocratically.

Catalonia has been seeking independence from Spain for years. Even so, he remained confident there will be a large turnout of Catalans on October 1 - whatever form the vote takes.

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Many who do not support independence say they are scared to speak out and no longer feel comfortable in their own country.

Sturgeon, who is the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), on Thursday backed the Catalan regional government for planning the referendum, saying that "the right of self-determination is an important worldwide principle". Three ferries docked at Barcelona's port will provide accommodation for the extra officers.

Hundreds of pro-independence supporters had protested outside the courthouse in the town of Hospitalet de Llobregat to demand the officials' release. Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans.

Some 2,000 students are staging a separate pro-referendum demonstration at one of Barcelona's main universities. Student union representatives urged the protesters to remain over the weekend. The Catalan National Assembly, a driving force behind the secession movement, urged people to gather at noon September 21 outside the region's justice tribunal and bring tents if needed.

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