Spain Accuses 2 Catalan Independence Leaders of Sedition
00:25, Sep 25, 2017
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Spain's central government and regional Catalan authorities tussled Saturday over who controls the regional police force that is considered key to the success of a planned October 1 independence vote for the northeastern region.
The ministry said they would back up Catalonia's separate police force, called Mossos d'Esquadra, which would remain in charge.
Catalonia's interior minister Joaquim Forn said the local government considers latest moves as an interference in the regional police.
"We feel occupied by the Spanish police", 56-year-old interior designer Nuria Gimenez said.
When protesters blocked the entrance to the Catalan Finance Ministry earlier this week, it were the Mossos who convinced the crowd to disperse after midnight to allow the Guardia to exit the building.
Madrid's Constitutional Court says the vote is illegal but Catalan leaders are determined to hold it.
Spain's Constitutional Court has suspended the October 1 vote while judges assess its legality, but Catalan authorities insist it will take place, and both sides have accused the other of acting illegally and undemocratically.
The interior ministry has not disclosed how many more police officers it is sending to the region but Spanish media said between 3,000 and 4,000 had already arrived or were on their way.
The federal government, through its representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, urged Forn against fueling street protests with his rhetoric, arguing that the government "is not taking over the police competencies of the regional government", but assumes the role of a coordinator of a joint security operation.
Catalonia is sharply divided, with a government poll in July finding that 41.1 percent of people were for and 49.4 percent against independence, although the vast majority agree with holding a referendum to decide the matter.
Spanish media report that several hundred students have spent the night inside a Barcelona university to protest the government's efforts to stop a referendum over Catalonia's secession from the country.
Jordi Vives, a spokesman for the students, told Catalan public television: "We are showing that as students we have a part to play and that for now we are staying put".
Police arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials suspected of coordinating the referendum, and seized 10 million ballot papers. That support has been waning in recent months as Spain's national and regional economies have begun thriving.
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