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Catalan independence: Mas called to court over 2014 referendum

President of Catalonia Artur Mas waves at a rally, 27 September 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Catalan regional president Artur Mas is spearheading the independence campaign

Catalonia's acting regional head Artur Mas has been summoned to court for his role in staging a vote on independence last year.

The Catalonia high court accuses Mr Mas of disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement of public funds.

Two days ago his pro-independence alliance won a majority of seats in elections for the regional parliament.

The Catalan regional government has denounced the lawsuit as politically motivated.

The separatist alliance, Together for Yes, said Sunday's result gave the parties a mandate to push for independence from Spain.

Fierce opposition

Mr Mas and two colleagues - Joanna Ortega and Irene Rigau - are accused of breaking the law by staging an unofficial ballot on 9 November last year.

The vote, which was not binding, went ahead despite fierce opposition by the Spanish government and an injunction by Spain's constitutional court.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pro-independence activists have been holding mass rallies in Barcelona

Catalan officials said more than 80% of voters backed independence in the 2014 vote, although turnout was only around 40%.

Following an investigation dating back to late last year, the court called Mr Mas to go before a judge on 15 October.

If found guilty, he and the two officials could face a ban from public office and a possible prison sentence.

Josep Rull, a spokesman for Mr Mas's Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party, said the case showed the "central state's political cowardice".

He said the indictment would not stop the separatist leader running for president of the region.

Unfair deal

Spain's central government has refused to allow a referendum on independence and says it will use all legal means to prevent Catalonia from breaking away.

After Sunday's result, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was ready to listen to Catalonia's new regional government - but would not discuss the country's unity.

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The main separatist alliance, Together For Yes (Junts pel Si), won 62 of the 135 regional parliament seats but won a majority in parliament with the support of a smaller radical pro-independence party, the CUP, which had 10 seats.

Despite their parliamentary majority, the separatists secured 47.8% of votes cast.

The CUP, a radical anti-capitalist group, says it will back the Together for Yes separatist alliance but will not help Mr Mas become regional president.

Pro-independence Catalans argue that their region gets an unfair deal, contributing too much tax to Madrid in return for insufficient state investment. In terms of GDP theirs is the richest region in Spain.

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