Spain prosecutors threaten to arrest Catalan pro-referendum mayors

Catalonia's polarization escalates

The prosecutor's office ordered 712 mayors in Catalonia who have backed the vote to be summoned to court as official suspects in the criminal probe.

If the "Yes" side wins, Catalonia's regional government has vowed to declare independence within 48 hours and set about building a sovereign state.

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.

The Spanish government is trying to stop the planned October 1 ballot through the courts.

The Spanish prime minister continues to urge the people of Catalonia not to take part in the planned referendum on the region's independence that he says is unconstitutional.

Most of Catalonia's 948 mayors have pledged to permit use of public spaces for the vote, but Ada Colau, head of the region's biggest city Barcelona, has asked for assurances that civil servants involved will not risk losing their jobs.

"What is happening is that people are looking to have more control over their lives; they are looking for much more in terms of a say in how their lives are run", he said.

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Prosecutors have already launched an official complaint against Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and members of his government over their referendum plans, accusing them of civil disobedience, misfeasance and misappropriation of public funds - the latter carrying jail sentences of up to eight years.

Spain's King Felipe VI also entered the fray, stepping up the pressure on Catalonia by vowing that the Spanish Constitution "will prevail" over any attempt to break the country apart.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is fighting to stop the ballot and he appealed to Catalans to ignore calls from independence supporters to turn out. They argue that Spain's 1978 constitution bars regional governments from calling independence referendums.

Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium, accounts for one-fifth of Spain's economic output.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona this week to show support for independence.

But Spain's economic worries, coupled with a perception that the region pays more in taxes than it receives in investments and transfers from Madrid, have helped push the cause of secession from the fringes of Catalan politics to center stage.

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