Spain’s state prosecutor has ordered a criminal investigation of 712 Catalan mayors for cooperating with an independence referendum planned for next month, which is not recognized by the country’s central government.
The referendum has also been denounced by the Spanish judiciary, who held that it is a violation of Spain’s constitution.
The prosecutor’s office has ordered the arrest of any mayors who do not comply with the investigation, AP reported.
The investigation was ordered by the Attorney General’s Office, RT’s Spanish bureau reported.
Police were also ordered on Tuesday to seize ballot boxes, along with election flyers or any item that could be used in the banned referendum, AFP reported.
They were told to take action against authorities, civil servants or individuals “to avoid offenses being committed,” prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.
It comes just two days after as many as a million people gathered in Barcelona in support of the October 1 independence referendum, which has been deemed illegal by Madrid.
Despite pressure from Madrid, the head of Catalonia’s regional government, Carles Puigdemont, told journalists on Monday that “It is not an option that the referendum won’t go ahead. It is 20 days away and we’ve already overcome many hurdles.”
Many supporting the referendum argue that full sovereignty for Catalonia will benefit the region, especially amid the high unemployment rate and austerity measures that followed Spain’s economic crisis, Jonathan Shafi, chairman of Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), told RT earlier this week.
“The root cause is the economic crisis of 2008. It is the austerity measures we have seen take place. What is happening is that people are looking to have more control over their lives; they are looking for much more in terms of a say in how their lives are run,” he said.
Catalonia has long sought independence from the rest of Spain. In 2014, a separate referendum which was also deemed illegal by Madrid saw 80 percent of voters casting their ballots for a split.