Spain’s top prosecutor is investigating more than 700 Catalan mayors for cooperating with a planned referendum on the region’s independence after the nation’s constitutional court ordered the vote put on hold, the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday. Catalonia’s regional police force is under orders to arrest the mayors if they refuse to appear for questioning, State Prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza’s office said. The announcement significantly raised the stakes in an increasingly tense standoff between Catalan independence supporters and national authorities over the referendum planned for Oct. 1.
If mayors and their municipalities cannot help organize balloting, the vote is unlikely to proceed. Maza’s order also puts regional police officers in the uneasy position of carrying out commands from Madrid in their towns and cities.
The pro-independence coalition ruling Catalonia has vowed to hold the referendum, defying a prohibition by Spain’s Constitutional Court. It has asked the 947 mayors in the northeastern region to provide voting facilities.
Maza ordered the prosecutors in Spain’s 17 provinces to investigate the 712 mayors who already have offered to provide municipal premises as polling stations.