Spain’s central authorities moved on Thursday to crush plans by the northeastern region of Catalonia to hold an independence referendum and took steps to prosecute regional lawmakers backing the ballot, Reuters reports.
A long-running campaign for independence by a group of Catalan politicians, who hold a majority in the regional parliament, came to a head on Wednesday when they approved a law to allow a vote on secession from Spain scheduled for Oct. 1.
The country’s Constitutional Court, Spain’s highest legal authority on such matters, suspended the referendum law late on Thursday to allow judges time to consider whether the vote breaches the country’s constitution.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said earlier on Thursday he had appealed to the court to declare the referendum illegal. The constitution states Spain is indivisible.
“This referendum will not go ahead,” he said.
In a separate move on Thursday, Spain’s state prosecutor’s office said it would present criminal charges against leading members of the Catalan parliament for allowing Wednesday’s parliamentary vote to go ahead.
Catalan lawmakers have said they are prepared to go to jail over the issue.
The state prosecutor general, Jose Manuel Maza, told reporters he had also asked the security forces to investigate any preparations by the Catalan government to hold the referendum. This could involve printing leaflets or preparing polling stations.
Teachers, police and administrative workers are among civil servants that could risk fines or potentially the loss of their jobs by manning polling stations or taking part in other activities deemed as helping the vote.
Polls show the debate over independence in the region is close-run, with those preferring to stay united with Spain slightly outnumbering “independentistas”. A majority of Catalans do want the right to hold a referendum, however.
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