Spain to send extra police to Catalonia if independence referendum goes ahead

Geneva Matthews
September 24, 2017

An Interior Ministry statement said the extra agents would provide backing for the Catalan regional police, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

A demonstrator holds up a banner reading "We vote to be free" as she tries with others to stop the auto carrying Xavier Puig, a senior official of the Catalan government, after he was arrested by Guardia Civil officers in Barcelona, Sept. 20.

The central government in Madrid has blocked the vote and chartered three ferries in the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona to house additional police dispatched to the region.

There were reports that people wave "Esteladas" (pro-independence Catalan flags) during a pro-independence demonstration, on September 11, 2017 in Barcelona during the National Day of Catalonia, the "Diada".

The Spanish government is headed for a showdown with regional police in Catalonia amid signs the 17,000-strong force isn't fully committed to upholding a court ban sought by Madrid on a planned referendum on independence.

The Catalan government earlier this week accused the Spanish authorities of effectively taking over its administration after state police raided its offices and arrested officials, and the finance ministry took control of the local finance department. It did not say how many extra police would be sent. A statement said the six declined to give evidence.

Spain's Interior Ministry says the man arrested on Wednesday is suspected of helping the terrorists obtain the materials needed to make the explosives and had an especially close relationship with the radical imam. The Spanish government called the bill illegal and challenged it in the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, hundreds more pro-independence supporters protested outside a courthouse in the north-eastern Catalan town of Hospitalet de Llobregat to demand the release of the arrested officials. Spain's constitutional court has suspended the referendum while it weighs the legality of the vote.

The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters, and polls consistently show the region's inhabitants favour a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.

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