INDEPENDENCE BID

Attorney general files charges against Catalan leaders over self-rule vote

Mas and two aides accused of four offenses relating to holding of unofficial poll

Catalan premier Artur Mas (right) and his deputy Joana Ortega (left) both face charges in connection with the November 9 vote on self-rule.
Catalan premier Artur Mas (right) and his deputy Joana Ortega (left) both face charges in connection with the November 9 vote on self-rule.EFE

Spain’s Attorney General’s Office on Friday filed formal charges against Catalonia leader Artur Mas in connection with the November 9 non-binding vote on self-rule for the region held in violation of a court injunction.

Mas is being accused of disobedience, breach of public duties, misuse of public money and usurpation of powers in the lawsuit, which the Catalonia regional High Court received at 12.20pm.

Prosecutors are also levying the same charges against Mas’s deputy, Joana Ortega, and regional education commissioner Irene Rigau, sources at the Attorney General’s Office told Efe.

The move had been widely expected after Attorney General Eduardo Torres-Dulce secured almost unanimous support from the country’s top prosecutors to go ahead with legal action two days ago.

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At that point, Torres-Dulce had already made the decision to prosecute Mas for disobeying an injunction from the Constitutional Court, which had put the referendum on hold pending a decision over whether or not it went against the Spanish Constitution.

But when the Catalan Attorney General’s Office expressed opposition to the plan, the attorney general turned for support to the Junta de Fiscales de Sala, an advisory board of 25 top prosecutors whose verdicts are not binding but are highly influential.

Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs said earlier this week that regional officials were “ready” to defend themselves from any prosecution, and that if charges were finally pressed, they would bring “extraordinary international ridicule” to Spain.

On the day of the vote, Mas himself declared that “if the state attorney’s office wants to know who is responsible for opening the polling stations, they should take a look at me. I and my government are responsible.”

The central government, which is ruled by the conservative Popular Party (PP), has opposed a referendum from the beginning, arguing that it violates the Spanish Constitution because all Spaniards should be allowed to vote on an issue that affects the entire country.

After months of confrontational rhetoric and actions, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy now says he is prepared to discuss financial conditions for Catalonia but not a new, binding referendum on independence such as the one recently held in Scotland.

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