It was a state of siege... you had to be ap­palled

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

A NORTH Wales MP who wit­nessed po­lice raid­ing a polling sta­tion and tak­ing bal­lot papers dur­ing Cat­alo­nia’s in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum has slammed the “dis­grace­ful” be­hav­iour of the of­fi­cers and the Span­ish gov­ern­ment.

Hy­wel Wil­liams joined a delegation of Euro­pean politi­cians who ob­served the vote, which saw more than 890 civil­ians and 430 po­lice in­jured as of­fi­cers tried to dis­perse vot­ers.

The Plaid MP for Ar­fon, who chairs the All Party Par­lia­men­tary Group on Cat­alo­nia, has called on Spain to recog­nise the re­sult of the bal­lot, which saw more than 90% of the 2.26 mil­lion vot­ers back in­de­pen­dence.

“The way the Span­ish gov­ern­ment be­haved is dis­grace­ful, and an af­front to democ­racy,” said Mr Wil­liams, fol­low­ing his re­turn to Wales.

“That so many turned out, de­spite the Span­ish gov­ern­ment and the Guardia Civil’s ef­forts to scare them away, is re­mark­able.

“The peo­ple who voted showed a lot of per­se­ver­ance.

“We saw peo­ple who’d waited many decades to have a say on Cat­alo­nia’s fu­ture.

“It was like a state of siege at times, but the polling of­fi­cials still did all they could to main­tain democ­racy.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Wil­liams, elec­tion staff faced their com­puter net­works be­ing shut down by Span­ish author­i­ties, while he saw mem­bers of the Guardia Civil con­fis­cat­ing bal­lot papers from a school be­ing used as a polling sta­tion near Barcelona.

“Even though we were there as in­ter­na­tional ob­servers, act­ing in an im­par­tial ca­pac­ity, you couldn’t help be apalled by some of the ac­tions of the Span­ish gov­ern­ment,” he said. “The aim of the op­er­a­tion was clearly to in­tim­i­date peo­ple not to vote. “I saw for my­self bal­lot papers be­ing taken away and un­war­ranted road blocks be­ing put in place.”

The re­port pub­lished by the delegation said they were “im­pressed by the pa­tient, de­ter­mined and non-vi­o­lent be­hav­iour of the huge PIC­TURES MAIN AND FAR LEFT: HY­WEL WIL­LIAMS MP num­ber of peo­ple who voted”.

But it also re­ported: “We wish to ex­press ab­hor­rence at the vi­o­lence of the Span­ish state that brought about more than 800 in­di­vid­u­als be­ing in­jured, the elec­tronic sab­o­tage de­ployed against the demo­cratic vote and the re­moval of bal­lot boxes by Span­ish state forces.”

Mr Wil­liams has now man­aged to se­cure a 30-minute de­bate at West­min­ster Hall called The Im­pli­ca­tions of the Cata­lan Ref­er­en­dum for the Euro­pean Union.

De­spite the Span­ish gov­ern­ment’s in­sis­tence that the ref­er­en­dum was il­le­gal, Mr Wil­liams be­lieves there’s “no chance” that things can re­turn to how they were.

“There sim­ply has to be di­a­logue be­tween Barcelona and Madrid now,” he said.

There were also demon­stra­tions at Caernar­fon’s Maes land one in Llangefni on An­gle­sey.

● Far left, Hy­wel Wil­liams MP with one of the bal­lot papers used in the ref­er­en­dum in Cat­alo­nia; above, long queues to vote; left, scene from the po­lice in­ter­ven­tion

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