Europe

Prosecutors in Spain to charge Catalonia leader Mas

Catalans celebrate vote (9 Nov) Image copyright AP
Image caption Pro-independence Catalans said after the unofficial vote that there should be a proper referendum

Spanish prosecutors are to file criminal charges against Catalan President Artur Mas in response to a 9 November unofficial independence vote.

The non-binding vote went ahead despite fierce opposition by the Spanish government and a ruling by Spain's constitutional court.

Catalan officials say more than 80% of those who voted backed independence.

Charges will also be laid against Mr Mas's deputy, Joana Ortega, and Catalan Education Minister Irene Rigau.

The three politicians face accusations ranging from disobedience and perverting the course of justice to misuse of public funds.

When the Spanish government appealed against the autonomous north-eastern region's plans for a referendum, Spain's constitutional court suspended the vote and ordered a ban on campaigning.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy dismissed the unofficial vote as a "deep failure"

The Catalan government reacted by making the vote unofficial and non-binding, and gave the task of organising the ballot to thousands of volunteers.

It went ahead weeks after Scottish voters had rejected independence in an official referendum, by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Some 2.3 million people took part in the ballot, out of an electorate of 5.4 million, and Catalan officials said more than 80% had voted to back independence. Afterwards, Mr Mas said he would push for an official referendum.

The Spanish government dismissed the exercise as a "useless sham" and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stressed that most voters had not taken part, meaning it was a "deep failure".

For four hours on Wednesday, Spain's Attorney General Eduardo Torres-Dulce consulted a board of 24 senior prosecutors on whether to proceed with the criminal case.

All but two of the prosecutors backed the case, which will be put before the High Court of Justice in Catalonia.

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