Catalan ministers 'outlaws' if they declare independence

6 October 2017, 21:05

Catalan ministers will be "outlaws" if they defy courts and declare independence, the Spanish government has warned.

Ildefonso Castro, secretary of state for foreign affairs, has insisted a violent police crackdown against Catalan voters was "absolutely proportionate".

It comes as huge rallies are taking place in both Barcelona and Madrid - in support of both Spanish unity and Catalan autonomy.

:: Spanish media coverage of referendum reflects polarised society

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Castro urged Catalan leaders to drop plans for an independence declaration.

He said: "The most important thing is to be within the frame of the Spanish constitution.

"You can disagree with the law, but you cannot disobey the law. If you disobey the law, you become an outlaw."

Spain faced worldwide condemnation after police used batons and rubber bullets to stop people voting in the illegal independence referendum, with Catalan officials claiming up to 900 people had been injured.

Mr Castro said police action against protesters was simply "complying with the ruling of the court".

He added: "I think the action taken by the police last Sunday in Barcelona was absolutely proportionate.

"Having people injured - not in the numbers the Catalan government said - is sad. We don't like that and we understand it's not pleasant to watch that on TV.

"But we do think the response was proportionate."

His comments came as pro-independence MPs said they were working on the text of a unilateral declaration of independence that could be delivered next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the government has stepped up economic pressure on the region, passing a law making it easier to move their operations to other parts of Spain.

The crisis has even played out on the football pitch - with independence-backing Spain international Gerard Pique jeered by his own supporters during a match against Albania in Alicante.

Mr Castro was speaking after Enric Millo, the Spanish government's representative in Catalonia, seemed to make a conciliatory gesture, telling a TV interviewer: "When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who was hospitalised, I can't help but regret it and apologise on behalf of the officers that intervened."

Carles Riera, a lawmaker from the pro-independence CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy), gave an update on plans to declare independence, saying: "We are in talks about a text, with paper and pencil, on the declaration we want the regional parliament to accept on Tuesday.

"Nobody has put forward any scenario of delay, ambiguity or confusion. We are not working on that scenario."

Spain's ruling party says PM Mariano Rajoy is considering invoking the constitution to dissolve the regional parliament and force fresh Catalan elections if the region's government goes ahead with an independence declaration.

Within hours of the government's declaration allowing companies to move their HQ, CaixaBank, Spain's third biggest lender and Catalonia's biggest company, said its board had decided to move its registered office to Valencia "in light of the current political and social situation in Catalonia".

Catalonia-based utility Gas Natural said its board had decided to move its registered office to Madrid for as long as the legal uncertainty in Catalonia continued.

They joined a number of other Catalonia-based companies, including Sabadell, Spain's fifth-largest lender, that have already announced plans this week to move their registered offices elsewhere in Spain.

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