On Wednesday Spain’s Attorney General José Manuel Maza ordered Catalonia’s district attorneys to summon over 700 Catalan mayors who have offered municipal premises as polling stations for the referendum. Maza has instructed the Mossos d’Esquadra —Catalonia’s police force— to arrest any mayor who skips their court date. The public prosecution has summoned the mayors over their role as “accessories” to the organisation of the vote. Also on Wednesday Barcelona’s DA, Ana María Magaldi, ordered Catalonia’s local police forces to serve as judicial police and take action against referendum preparations.
Given the sheer number of local governments that support the referendum on independence, Maza’s instructions to the DAs of Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona are to initiate proceedings against the larger municipalities first. The prosecutor has asked to probe the mayors whose names appear on the list of towns and villages that have offered municipal venues as polling stations, a list compiled by the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI in Catalan). The prosecutor has chosen to work from the list as published on Tuesday afternoon, which featured a total of 712 local councils.
Missing from the list are the towns where the local government has announced that it will support the referendum but are not AMI members. A case in point is Sabadell, one of the largest cities that have agreed to aid in the holding of the independence ballot. Maza’s instructions state that the local governments involved include “a sizeable number of mayors” who have issued a decree “lending the Catalan government the public venues required” to hold the independence ballot.
As for Magaldi’s order, following in the steps of Maza’s statement last week, the Barcelona DA has asked the Mossos to give every local police chief an order to take action and stop the referendum. The DA has urged local police forces to “take the necessary steps” to seize “the items and instruments used to prepare or hold the ballot”, such as “ballot boxes, voting envelopes, instruction manuals for staff manning polling stations, election forms and digital media”.
Magaldi’s order also demands a report in writing of any action conducive to holding the referendum which local police might witness. Such reports “must be sent urgently” to the regional DA's office and to the Catalan police.
Bringing the mayors before the prosecutor
Maza’s Wednesday order establishes that, as judicial police, the Mossos must bring in for questioning “as soon as possible” any mayor that fails to appear in court once summoned by the prosecution. José Manuel Maza has indicated that mayors are to be questioned as part of the ongoing investigation while accompanied by their legal counsel. The AG’s letter stresses that the Catalan government has not halted referendum preparations and “has urged” local governments to provide venues for the vote.
This is another step by the Spanish public prosecution in its struggle to stop the ballot on October 1. Last Tuesday, Catalan police boss Josep Lluís Trapero was summoned for instructions from Maza to try to block the independence vote. Trapero attended a meeting with the top brass of Spain’s Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional in Catalonia where they were all given Maza’s orders ahead of the ballot.
Following the meeting, Trapero conveyed Romero de Tejada’s instructions to all units under his command. In an internal police memo, he informed the Catalan police force that the General Information Division would centralise any actions in connection with the AG’s request. This police division is tasked with intelligence work to do with jihadist terrorism, far-right and anti-system groups.