Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Spain prosecutors threaten to arrest Catalan pro-referendum mayors

Spain prosecutors threaten to arrest Catalan pro-referendum mayors

M - Up to a million Catalans have gathered in Barcelona to call for independence less than three weeks before the region is due to hold a vote on whether to break away from Spain, The Guardian reported. Pro-independence groups in Catalonia say the vote will go ahead even though the Constitutional Court has suspended it ahead of a ruling on its legality. Around one million people took part in the event, Barcelona's municipal police said in a Twitter post.

Polls have shown support for independence waning in recent years with those wanting a separate state in a minority.

September 11 marks the 'Diada, ' Catalonia's national day, which commemorates the fall of Barcelona to Spain in 1714 and is traditionally used by pro-independence activists to call for secession for the northeastern region with a distinct language. He has vowed to declare independence within days if the referendum result is a yes.

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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who faces criminal charges for his role in organizing the referendum, only has the power to call an election not a referendum, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Constitutional Court last Thursday suspended the referendum after a legal challenge by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The majority of regional governments are willing to back the referendum, although they don't necessarily back an independence vote. Spain's constitution bars regions from unilaterally calling an independence referendum.

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In a survey by the Catalan Centre of Opinion Studies in July, 41.1 percent backed independence while 49.9 percent rejected it.

Like the referendum held in Britain previous year on the country's membership in the European Union, the issue in Catalonia pits rural areas - which are more pro-independence - against large urban centres like Barcelona which are more in favour of remaining in Spain.

The following year the demonstration took the shape of a giant "V" for "vote" down two of the main avenues of Barcelona.

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