Spain threatens 712 Catalan mayors with arrest for independence poll

Members of the Catalan Popular Party display Spanish flags just before abandoning the session ahead of the voting during a plenary session at the Parliament of Catalonia in Barcelona Spain Wednesday Sept. 6 2017. Catalan lawmakers are voting on a bil

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is increasing the pressure to prevent an independence referendum from going ahead.

The Spanish Prosecutor General's Office has summoned mayors of several towns in Catalonia to ask them to clarify their position on the autonomous community's so-called independence referendum expected in October, a source in the prosecutors' office told Sputnik on Wednesday.

"They can't arrest us, they're insane!", David Rovira, the pro-separatist mayor of L'Espluga de Francoli, a town of some 3,800 residents, told AFP news agency, adding that Madrid had "proposed nothing" to appease Catalonia's demands for greater autonomy.

Polls have shown support for independence waning in recent years with those wanting a separate state in a minority.

With Spain's central government promising to block the referendum, the pro-independence camp was keen to show that it can rally its troops - especially after participation in the "Diada" declined previous year.

The Constitutional Court last Thursday suspended the referendum after a legal challenge by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"I am too old to be told what I can or can't do, I am counting on voting and I will do so, even if they have to put me in prison", said Mari Carmen Pla, a 70-year-old pensioner surrounded by a sea of red and yellow Catalan independence flags.

The ruling comes a day after prosecutors ordered police in Catalonia to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and any other item that could be used in the referendum.

In a survey by the Catalan Centre of Opinion Studies in July, 41.1 percent backed independence while 49.9 percent rejected it.

The Spanish prime minister continues to urge the people of Catalonia not to take part in the planned referendum on the region's independence that he says is unconstitutional.

Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium, accounts for one-fifth of Spain's economic output.

But Spain's economic worries, coupled with a perception that the region pays more in taxes than it receives in investments and transfers from Madrid, have helped push the cause of secession from the fringes of Catalan politics to center stage.

The following year the demonstration took the shape of a giant "V" for "vote" down two of the main avenues of Barcelona.

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