Spain Catalonia: Ballot Papers for Banned Referendum to be Seized

An estimated one million people marched in Barcelona on September 11 in support of a Catalonia independence vote

On Wednesday, the country's top prosecutor, Jose Manuel Maza, ordered provincial prosecutors to investigate 712 mayors who have already offered municipal facilities for the October 1 vote and the regional Catalan police to arrest them if they don't show up for testimony.

If the "Yes" side wins, Catalonia's regional government has vowed to declare independence within 48 hours and set about building a sovereign state.

This latest order comes amid growing tension between Madrid and Barcelona because of a proposed independence referendum on October 1, which has been deemed illegal by Spanish courts.

The ruling comes a day after prosecutors ordered police in Catalonia to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and any other item that could be used in the referendum.

Spain's top prosecutor is investigating more than 700 Catalan mayors for cooperating with a planned referendum on the region's independence after the nation's constitutional court ordered the vote put on hold.

Many supporting the referendum argue that full sovereignty for Catalonia will benefit the region, especially amid the high unemployment rate and austerity measures that followed Spain's economic crisis, Jonathan Shafi, chairman of Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), told RT earlier this week.

Officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could face charges of civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds, the letter said.

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Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose conservative government is fiercely against the vote, wished Catalonia "a good day", calling "for a Diada of freedom, cohabitation and respect for all Catalans".

Rajoy said on Wednesday: "If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don't go, because the referendum can't take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act".

Spain's King Felipe VI also entered the fray on Wednesday, stepping up the pressure on Catalonia by vowing that the Spanish constitution "will prevail" over any attempt to break the country apart.

Catalonia, which is roughly the same size as Belgium and has its own language and customs, already has significant powers over matters such as education and healthcare.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona this week to show support for independence.

But Spain's economic problems, coupled with a perception that the wealthy northeastern region's 7.5 million people pay more in taxes to Madrid than they get in return, have pushed the independence question to the centre stage.

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