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6 Oct 2017

Spain Tenders Apology to Injured Catalans Trying to Breakaway from the Country

Following the confrontation that saw the Spanish police officers assault and brutalize Catalans seeking independence, Spain has tendered an apology.
Police moved in to prevent people voting in Sunday's disputed election (Getty Images)
The Spanish government's representative in Catalonia has apologised to those injured during police efforts to stop Sunday's independence referendum.
But Enric Millo blamed the Catalan government for holding an illegal vote.

Meanwhile the government in Madrid has issued a decree making it easier for companies to move their headquarters away from Catalonia. A Catalan minister told the BBC his government would go ahead with an independence debate in parliament.

"Parliament will discuss, parliament will meet," said Catalan foreign affairs chief Raül Romeva. "Every attempt the Spanish government has used to impede things to happen, they have been demonstrated completely not only useless but counter-productive," he told the BBC in English.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont now plans to address the Catalan parliament on Tuesday - later than was expected. Spain's Constitutional Court earlier suspended the parliament session that had been planned for Monday. There is speculation that the parliament will declare independence unilaterally, based on last Sunday's disputed vote, which was declared illegal under Spanish law.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is chairing a cabinet meeting to discuss the next moves in the confrontation with Catalonia. Meanwhile, the Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluis Trapero, has appeared before a judge in Madrid on suspicion of sedition against the state. His Mossos d'Esquadra force is accused of failing to protect Spanish national police from protesters ahead of the 1 October independence referendum.

Watershed moment
The "sedition" hearing took place at the national criminal court in Madrid. The defendants are accused of failing to help Guardia Civil police tackle thousands of pro-independence protesters outside the Catalan Economy Department in Barcelona on 20 September.

Along with Commander Trapero, another Catalan police officer and two leading independence activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, are also being investigated in Madrid. They all left the court after the morning hearing free, without facing any Spanish restrictions. It is not yet clear what they told the judge. The Guardia Civil submitted an official accusation against the Mossos.

Leading newspaper El Pais says the allegation of sedition is extraordinary in post-Franco democratic Spain. As recently as August the Mossos was being widely praised for quickly tackling the Islamist cell that carried out the Barcelona terror attack in that month.

Organisers of Sunday's vote put the turnout at 42%, with 2.2 million people taking part. They say 90% voted for independence, but have not published the final results. There have been several claims of irregularities. Hundreds of people were injured during violence at polling stations as police, trying to enforce a Spanish court ban on the vote, attempted to seize ballot boxes and disperse voters.

The Spanish government refuses to hold negotiations on Catalonia's independence bid. The Catalan leaders say they want international mediation and have repeatedly urged the EU to get involved.

Catalonia is Spain's richest region and accounts for 19% of Spain's GDP. On Thursday, Sabadell, a major bank, decided to transfer its legally registered base from Barcelona to the south-eastern Spanish city of Alicante. Its HQ and workforce will remain in Barcelona.

CaixaBank, another large Barcelona-based institution, is reported to be considering a similar move. This would ensure the banks remained within the eurozone and under the supervision of the European Central Bank, even if Catalonia broke away from Spain.

- BBC

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