In Brief

Police raid Barcelona ministries to stop independence vote

Spanish police arrest at least 12 in coordinated 'assault' on Catalan government offices

Spanish police conducted dawn raids on Catalan government offices, including the presidency and foreign ministry in Barcelona, arresting at least 12 people in a bid to thwart an independence vote set for 1 October.

“Officers entered nine government premises, including the Palau de la Generalitat – the seat of government – the foreign affairs, economy and labor departments,” reports El Pais newspaper, citing the Spanish news agency EFE. The BBC says government buildings were searched, including a warehouse outside Barcelona where 6,000 ballot papers were found. 

Josep Maria Jove, the secretary-general of economic affairs, who answers directly to Catalonia’s vice-president Oriol Junqueras, and Lluis Salvado, finance secretary, were among those detained, a spokesman for the regional government confirmed.

Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont called the raids a “co-ordinated police assault” and said Madrid “has de facto suspended self-government and applied a de facto state of emergency”, reports The Guardian.

Catalan independence MEP Ramon Tremosa tweeted that it was a threat to democracy. 

Protesters stopped traffic in parts of Barcelona, says El Periodico. The crowds chanted “No tinc por” (“I’m not afraid”) – the slogan used after last month’s terrorist attack in Barcelona – and “Fuera las fuerzas de ocupacion” (“Occupation forces out”), El Mundo reports.

Barcelona Football Club condemned “any act” that impeded “democracy, freedom of expression and self-determination”.

Catalonia is due to hold an independence referendum on 1 October, despite the Constitutional Court siding with the Madrid government and declaring the vote illegal.

“Wednesday's operation was a dramatic intensification of Spain's attempt to stop the vote taking place,” says the BBC, adding: “And in a separate move Spain's finance minister, Cristobal Montoro, said the national government was now set to take control of a large part of Catalonia's public finances.”

At the beginning of this month, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he would “do whatever is needed” to prevent the referendum.

Speaking in parliament this morning, he defended the actions of the police and the government.

Saying there wasn’t a democracy in the world that would accept what the independence movement planned, he added: “They were warned. They knew the referendum could not take place because it means destroying national sovereignty and the rights of all Spaniards to decide what they want their country to be.”

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