losangelesnewstoday.com February 25, 2018

Spain targets polling stations as Catalan referendum nears

27 September 2017, 12:37 | Katrina Lee

Basque leader urges Madrid to allow independence votes

Basque leader urges Madrid to allow independence votes

As calls for independence grow in the Spanish region of Catalonia, President Trump on September 26 said he "would like to see Spain continue to be united".

On Sept. 23, the Catalan High Court ordered any website supporting the referendum to be blocked.

Spanish Attorney General Jose Manual Maza warned today that the government retains the option of arresting Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont for "disobedience" and misuse of public funds if the Catalan referendum takes place.

"It's a decision that is possible but we have not considered that we should take it", Maza said during an interview with Onda Cero radio.

However, the Spanish prosecutor general added that it would be unreasonable to detain Puigdemont immediately, as the law enforcement agencies try to take adequate measures.

With five days to go until the October 1 vote, the clash between Catalonia's pro-separatist government and Madrid was increasingly being played out in the arena of logistics and global opinion. Numerous searches were also held in a number of governmental institutions, including Catalonia's government.

But the unrelenting opposition from Madrid means such a result would go all but unrecognised, potentially setting up a new phase of the dispute.

The website of the foundation of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco "remains operational" but not the referendum websites, said Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull.

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Absent at the time, he said his staff only handed over a report compiled for internal use summing up Madrid's position on the vote.

If the "yes" side wins the referendum the Catalan government has said it would declare independence within days for the wealthy northeastern region of Spain, home to about 7.5 million people.

Polls show that Catalans are sharply divided over whether they want independence, but a large majority would like a legal referendum to settle the matter.

Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told AFP that "a hypothetical declaration of independence won't lead to anything because no one would recognise it".

They will be released pending further questioning by a judge, he said. If they do not pay the amount by the deadline, the court could seize their property.

"We denounce this as an operation of state abuse", they said.

For its part the Catalan regional government said the vote will go ahead and it sent out notifications to Catalans to man polling booths.

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