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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Spanish court imposes 12,000 euro daily fine on Catalonian officials

One of those who had the highest fine imposed were Josep Maria Jové, the number two of the regional department of economy

A woman carries an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) past a child playing with soap bubbles during a protest outside the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
A woman carries an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) past a child playing with soap bubbles during a protest outside the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

The Spanish Constitutional Court has imposed fines of between 6,000 and 12,000 euros (Dh26300-Dh52600) on Catalonian regional officials who were allegedly helping to organise an independence referendum that the Spanish judiciary has deemed unconstitutional.

Among those who had the highest fine imposed were Josep Maria Jové, the number two of the regional department of economy who on Wednesday was arrested alongside 13 others, and five electoral representatives in charge of tracking the referendum.

The news comes after thousands of people supporting the referendum to split Catalonia from Spain took to Barcelona’s streets amid an intensifying government crackdown on the independence vote that included the arrests of a dozen regional officials Wednesday and the seizure of 10 million ballot papers.

The arrests — the first involving Catalan officials since the campaign to hold an independence vote began in earnest in 2011 — prompted the regional government and some of its supporters to say casting a ballot was as much about dignity as whether to break away from Spain.

Regional Catalan officials so far have vowed to ignore a Constitutional Court order to suspend the Oct. 1 referendum while judges assess its legality.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned them of “greater harm” if they don’t drop the referendum bid, which he called a “totalitarian act.”

“Disobedience of the law by a part of the political power is the opposite of democracy, it means an imposition, an injustice, the violation of people’s rights and an attack to democracy,” Rajoy said in a televised appearance on Wednesday night.

Catalan nationalists argue that self-determination is an inalienable right that can’t be curbed by any constitution. The prime minister’s determination to prevent the ballot has backing from the main Spanish opposition parties.

Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, blasted the police operations as “unlawful” and accused the national government of adopting a “totalitarian attitude.” He accused Madrid of bringing a state of emergency to Catalonia and of effectively cancelling the northeastern region’s self-rule.

His televised statement came as Spain’s Finance Ministry said it was imposing further controls over the Catalan government’s finances to ensure no public money is used for the referendum.

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