Spain pros­e­cu­tors threaten to ar­rest Cata­lan may­ors

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Spain’s state prose­cu­tor yes­ter­day or­dered a crim­i­nal probe of Cata­lan may­ors who co­op­er­ate with an Oc­to­ber 1 in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum deemed il­le­gal by Madrid and threat­ened to ar­rest those who do not com­ply. The pros­e­cu­tors’ of­fice or­dered the may­ors who have agreed to help stage the vote be sum­moned to court as of­fi­cial sus­pects and if they do not ap­pear to “or­der their ar­rest”, ac­cord­ing to a copy of the rul­ing ob­tained by AFP.

Cat­alo­nia’s pro-sep­a­ratist govern­ment has asked the wealthy north­east­ern re­gion’s 948 may­ors to pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties for polling sta­tions for the plebiscite. So far over 700 mostly smaller municipalities have agreed to par­tic­i­pate. 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.

Pros­e­cu­tors have al­ready launched an of­fi­cial com­plaint against Cata­lan pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont and mem­bers of his govern­ment over their ref­er­en­dum plans, ac­cus­ing them of civil dis­obe­di­ence, mis­fea­sance and mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic funds-the lat­ter car­ry­ing jail sen­tences of up to eight years. Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy’s con­ser­va­tive govern­ment has vowed to do ev­ery­thing in his power to stop the ref­er­en­dum.

It ar­gues Spain’s 1978 con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates that re­gional gov­ern­ments can­not call an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum. Spain’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court has sus­pended a ref­er­en­dum law that was fast-tracked through Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional par­lia­ment last week but the Cata­lan govern­ment has vowed to go ahead with the vote nonethe­less. The court has since 2015 de­clared re­gional in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dums to be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Eco­nomic wor­ries

Cata­lan author­i­ties rou­tinely ig­nore the court’s de­ci­sions as they do not rec­og­nize its le­git­i­macy. Cat­alo­nia, which is roughly the size of Bel­gium and ac­counts for about one-fifth of Spain’s eco­nomic out­put, and al­ready has sig­nif­i­cant pow­ers over mat­ters such as ed­u­ca­tion and health­care. But Spain’s eco­nomic wor­ries, cou­pled with a per­cep­tion that the re­gion pays more in taxes than it re­ceives in in­vest­ments and trans­fers from Madrid, have helped push the cause of se­ces­sion from the fringes of Cata­lan pol­i­tics to cen­tre stage. Adding to the rise in sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment was a 2010 rul­ing by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court strik­ing down parts of a 2006 au­ton­omy char­ter which granted new pow­ers to Cat­alo­nia and rec­og­nized it as “a na­tion”. —AFP

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