Cata­lan may­ors defy Span­ish courts ahead of in­de­pen­dence vote


BARCELONA: More than 700 may­ors from across Cat­alo­nia gath­ered in Barcelona on Saturday to con­firm their sup­port for a planned in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum that Madrid has de­clared il­le­gal.

The Cata­lan govern­ment plans to hold a ref­er­en­dum on self rule for the wealthy north­east­ern re­gion on Oct. 1, de­spite strong op­po­si­tion from govern­ment which has chal­lenged the vote in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court.

The may­ors met with Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional head Car­les Puigde­mont in a show of de­fi­ance, fol­low­ing Span­ish pros­e­cu­tors warn­ing ear­lier this week that of­fi­cials en­gag­ing in any prepa­ra­tions for the vote could be charged with civil dis­obe­di­ence, abuse of of­fice and mis­use of pub­lic funds.

On Wed­nes­day, Span­ish pros­e­cu­tors sum­moned for ques­tion­ing more than 700 may­ors who had said they would al­low mu­nic­i­pal spa­ces to be used for vot­ing. If the may­ors do not re­spond to the or­der, po­lice should ar­rest them, the or­der said.

Meet­ing in down­town Barcelona in front of hun­dreds of flag wav­ing pro-in­de­pen­dence pro­test­ers, the may­ors gave speeches in which they promised con­tin­ued sup­port for the ref­er­en­dum amid chants of “we will vote” and “in­de­pen­dence.”

Barcelona Mayor Ada Co­lau, who has reached an agree­ment with the Cata­lan re­gional govern­ment to al­low vot­ing in the city, crit­i­cized Madrid’s re­sponse to the cri­sis in a short speech in the city hall. “It’s a dis­grace that we have a govern­ment that is in­ca­pable of di­a­logue and in­stead ded­i­cates it­self to pur­su­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing may­ors and the me­dia,” Co­lau said.

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