Tension builds in Spain as Catalans defy Madrid over ballot

Tension builds in Spain as Catalans defy Madrid over ballot

Prosecutors said that the mayors should be arrested if they failed to appear under the criminal investigation into the poll that separatists have vowed to hold in defiance of Madrid.

If mayors and their municipalities can not help organize balloting, the vote is unlikely to proceed.

So far 712 mostly smaller municipalities have agreed to participate, according to a list posted on the website of Catalonia's Municipal Association for Independence (AMI) which represents 750 municipalities.

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Officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could be charged with civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds, the prosecutor said in a letter delivered to local authorities on Wednesday. "They're insane!", David Rovira, the pro-separatist mayor of L'Espluga de Francoli, a town of some 3,800 residents, told Agence France-Presse by phone, adding that Madrid had "proposed nothing" to appease Catalonia's demands for greater autonomy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is fighting to stop the ballot and he appealed to Catalans to ignore calls from independence supporters to turn out.

Rajoy on Wednesday urged Catalans to boycott the referendum.

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A mounting confrontation between Catalan and Spain's national leaders over a planned independence referendum in the Catalonia region is gripping Spain.

The pro-independence coalition governing Catalonia says the October 1 ballot will go ahead despite a ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court suspending the vote until judges can rule on its legality.

The mayor of Barcelona - the region's most populous area - has yet to take a definitive position, and has asked for reassurances that civil servants involved in the process will not risk losing their jobs.

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