Spain blocks Catalan independence vote

Reuters MADRID (Reuters) — Spain’s central authorities moved on Thursday to crush plans by the northeastern region of Catalonia to hold an independence referendum and took steps to prosecute regional lawmakers backing the ballot.

A long-running campaign for independence by a group of Catalan politicians, who hold a majority in the regional parliament, came to a head on Wednesday when they approved a law to allow a vote on secession from Spain scheduled for Oct. 1.

The country’s Constitutional Court, Spain’s highest legal authority on such matters, suspended the referendum law late on Thursday to allow judges time to consider whether the vote breaches the country’s constitution.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said earlier Thursday he had appealed to the court to declare the referendum illegal. The constitution states Spain is indivisible.

“This referendum will not go ahead,” he said.

In a separate move on Thursday, Spain’s state prosecutor’s office said it would present criminal charges against leading members of the Catalan parliament for allowing Wednesday’s parliamentary vote to go ahead.

Catalan lawmakers have said they are prepared to go to jail over the issue.

The state prosecutor-general, Jose Manuel Maza, told reporters he had also asked the security forces to investigate any preparations by the Catalan government to hold the referendum. This could involve printing leaflets or preparing polling stations.Speech

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