Spain prosecutors threaten to arrest Catalan pro-referendum mayors

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"If there is huge mobilisation, they can't do anything in Madrid", said Jordi Calatayud, a 21-year-old economics student, referring to the October 1 vote.

Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the vote after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy challenged it in the courts.

Judges are now considering whether the legislation contravenes Spain's constitution, which states the country is indivisible.

Protesters carry Esteladas Catalan separatist flags and Basque flags during a rally in favour of a referendum on independence from Spain for the autonomous community of Catalonia in the Basque city of Bilbao Spain
Million march for Catalonian independence

The move increases the pressure on Catalan officials just one day before the pro-separatist camp officially kicks off its referendum campaign in the Mediterranean port of Tarragona.

The pro-independence coalition governing Catalonia says the October 1 ballot will go ahead despite a ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court suspending the vote until judges can rule on its legality.

Police have searched a Catalan printing house and a local weekly newspaper suspected of making ballots for the referendum while Spain's state prosecutor has launched criminal proceedings against Puigdemont and other Catalan officials. Maza said the possible charges against the mayors are the same as those for Puigdemont and his ministers who signed the decree calling the referendum: disobedience, abuse of power, and alleged embezzlement of public funds, which carry possible sentences of up to eight years in prison. In 2015, the court declared regional independence referendums to be unconstitutional.

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Demonstrators will take the shape of a giant "X" by gathering on the Paseo de Gracia and Aragon avenues in central Barcelona to represent the mark Catalans will make on their ballots during the referendum.

"If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don't go, because the referendum can't take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act", the prime minister said.

Barcelona Mayor Ana Colau, who opposes secession but supports a vote, says she wants to help arrange the referendum but won't do so without assurances that she and her staff would be acting legally.

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As tensions over the independence referendum reach record heights, Spain's King Felipe VI made his first public statement since Catalonia's government passed a bill in their parliament that details the referendum and established an "exception judicial regime" in the wealthy north-eastern region of Spain.

M - Up to a million Catalans have gathered in Barcelona to call for independence less than three weeks before the region is due to hold a vote on whether to break away from Spain, The Guardian reported.

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