Spain challenges Catalan independence referendum bid in court

Posted September 07, 2017

A Spanish court has billed 11 former Catalan officials 5.1 million euros for holding an informal independence vote three years ago, but the region's leaders say the penalty won't stop them from holding a binding referendum on the issue.

The current head of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, said the move was the Spanish state "spreading fear".

Now that it has been approved legislatively, Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont is expected to sign the measure into law either late on Wednesday or early on Thursday.

Tebas has previously stated a new law would need to go through the Spanish parliament in order for any Catalan clubs to be accepted back into Spanish football.

The leader of the main opposition party in Catalonia, Ciudadanos (Citizens) leader Ines Arrimadas, immediately announced that she would seek parliamentary support for a no-confidence vote against Puigdemont that would force new regional elections.

"What is happening in the Catalan Parliament is embarrassing, it's shameful", Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.

Ines Arrimadas of Ciudadanos, leader of the official opposition in Catalonia, said the "illegal" bill not only lacked worldwide support, but also violated the Catalans' rights.

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According to Reuters, the Catalan parliament will be able to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of a "yes" vote.

But a referendum in defiance of Spain's rule of law, without the blessing of central authorities, has inflamed controversy.

The referendum, planned for October 1, would not be recognized by Spain's central authorities, who have vowed to use all legal measures to stop it.

The push from the wealthy northeastern region to hold an independence vote sets Spain - which is still reeling from jihadists attacks Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and a nearby seaside resort last month that killed 16 people - on course for its deepest political crisis in decades. The government that emerged from that vote vowed to begin the process of breaking away from Spain. The opposition argues that the bill should be first vetted by a legal committee because it clashes with Spain's constitutional laws.

Catalonia, along with Britain's Scotland and Belgium's Flanders, has one of the most active independence movements in the European Union.

The vote is not recognized by the Spanish government and most political parties at the national level.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people with its own language and culture, accounts for about 20 percent of Spain's economic output, and has significant powers over matters such as education, healthcare and welfare.