Spain targets polling stations as Catalan referendum nears

Basque leader urges Madrid to allow independence votes

Spanish police have confiscated millions of ballots in recent days as part of a crackdown to stop the October 1 vote, which has been suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court.

Madrid has responded with the heavy legal artillery at its disposal to block the vote, dealing a blow to plans to hold a vote with a semblance of legitimacy.

They are cracking down on organisers by threatening them with prosecution.

Mr Rajoy, 62, the leader of the conservative People's Party (PP) said the issue of the Catalan referendum is creating tensions within the country and would like it to be resolved as soon as possible.

The Spanish Interior Ministry in Madrid said the order to note down the personal details of officials was given to police by the top state prosecutor in Catalonia.

They are accused of allegedly "disseminating a website for people to participate in a referendum declared illegal by the Constitutional Court", a police spokesman said.

Senior Madrid government officials said on Monday that authorities had done enough to prevent a meaningful referendum in the region as Catalonia lacked an election commission, ballots boxes, ballot papers, a transparent census and election material.

Thousands of Catalan separatists are rallying in public squares in Barcelona and other towns in support of a disputed referendum on independence of the northeastern region from Spain.




Another 85 sites are in the process of being closed, judicial sources said.

Meanwhile police visited the office of the mayor of Oliana, Miquel Sala, one of the over 700 mayors under investigation for pledging to cooperate with the referendum. He also ruled out violence, saying it wasn't "an option in Catalonia".

"They need to stop lying, come back to reason and accept that we will all find a place for Catalonia within Spain", he added before heading to Washington.

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has repeatedly said the unilateral referendum will not be allowed to take place because it is illegal and a clear breach of the constitution.

"I'm not thinking about calling early elections as a result of what we were seeing", he said in Washington.

Spain has deplyed two-thirds of its riot police to Catalonia, some 2,000 officers, for the referendum, according to daily newspaper El Pais.

Many had not yet received information about where or when they would be working after the state-run postal service was told to stop all mail related to the vote, Marta Rovira said in a radio interview.

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