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Spain Threatens To Arrest 700 Mayors For Backing Catalonian Independence

More than 700 mayors in the region of Catalonia were named in a criminal probe Wednesday for their part in an independence referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish government.

Catalonia’s pro-separatist government is preparing for its most serious attempt at independence in recent years after calling a binding referendum vote for Oct. 1. Spain’s national government strictly opposes the referendum and has threatened to arrest people behind the vote if they go ahead with their plans.

“If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don’t go because the referendum can’t take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

So far 712 out of 948 municipalities have agreed to participate by providing polling locations. Mayors from the affected communities have been summoned to court by Spain’s public prosecutor, according to AFP.

“They can arrest us, they’re crazy!” David Rovira, the mayor of the small town of L’Espluga de Francoli, told AFP.

The region has pushed for a legitimate referendum for years. An 80 percent majority backed independence in a symbolic referendum in 2014, which the federal government ruled unconstitutional. Three former officials, including the former Catalan President Artur Mas, were barred from holding public office as a result.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Sept. 4 that he won’t accept a suspension if the government attempts to remove him.

“The circumstances under which one ceases to be head of the Catalan regional government are regulated by Catalonia’s autonomy statute, so we should oppose a suspension of this type,” Puigdemont said, according to The Local.

Polls suggest the referendum could go either way if ends up taking place.

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