BARCELONA – Prosecutors in Catalonia ordered security forces on Tuesday in this wealthy region of northeast Spain to confiscate election material related to a contentious independence ballot slated to take place on Oct. 1.
The order, which followed a Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) ruling that the separatist bid is illegal, implicated Spain’s militarized Civil Guard, the National Police and the Mossos d’Esquadra – Catalonia’s devolved law enforcement squad which has roughly 16,800 agents at its disposal.
A statement released by the Catalonia Prosecutor’s Office following a meeting with the heads of all three police forces said security agents were required to confiscate “ballot boxes, envelopes, electoral board guidelines, ballot papers, campaign material, informative documents and any other material linked to the promotion or execution of the illegal referendum.”
Police were also ordered to take action against any local authorities, civil servants or private citizens involved in activities related to the preparation of the so-called O-1vote.
The referendum was signed into local law after it passed through the regional parliament, currently led by the party of pro-separatist President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont.
The move prompted ire and swift legal action from the Spanish government of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, as well as other mainstream political parties in the country’s Madrid-based national parliament.
Although the secession legislation passed in Catalonia has been blocked by the TC, regional developments have nonetheless sparked a fierce public debate on national identity and democracy.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-independence demonstrators inundated Barcelona’s streets on Monday during a protest organized by the regional government that concluded the annual Catalonia National Day celebrations.
Spain’s leading political forces used that day, known locally as La Diada, to denounced ongoing efforts to stage the separatist poll.