Ex-Catalan chief faces public office ban over referendum

Spanish prosecutors called on Monday for Catalonia's former separatist chief Artur Mas to be handed a 10-year ban on holding public office ahead of his trial for staging a symbolic vote on independence.

Ex-Catalan chief faces public office ban over referendum
Artur Mas celebrates after the vote. Photo: AFP

The indictment comes just days after Carles Puigdemont, the current president of the northeastern region, promised he would call a referendum on whether to secede from Spain in September 2017, in a move that infuriated Madrid.

In their indictment, which AFP was given access to, Catalan prosecutors called for the ban on Mas because of his alleged serious disobedience and perverting the course of justice.

The vote took place on November 9th, 2014 as a non-binding, symbolic ballot.   

Mas had initially wanted to organise an independence referendum like the one held in Scotland, but the Spanish government went to court to block his plans.

The Constitutional Court upheld the government's complaint, so Mas decided to go ahead with a symbolic vote instead.   

Over 80 percent cast their ballot in favour of independence – although just 2.3 million people out of a total of 6.3 million eligible voters in Catalonia took part.

Authorities subsequently launched a probe into the vote.    

Prosecutors argue that the former Catalan president “created a strategy of complete and effective defiance of the (vote) suspension decided by the Constitutional Court.”

Mas and his allies though say the case is politically motivated.    

Catalans' long-standing demands for greater autonomy have intensified over recent years as Madrid has resisted their bids for reform, as have calls for fully-fledged independence of this wealthy region.

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