Spain sending extra police to Catalonia over independence referendum

Catalonia closes ranks against Spain in referendum row

A large and noisy demonstration lasting more than 24 hours in Barcelona against the raids and arrests dispersed on Friday afternoon after the officials were released.

The leader of Catalonia's regional government, Carles Puigdemont, said on Thursday his administration would push on with a banned October 1 referendum on a split from Spain, in defiance of a court order banning the vote.

They remain under investigation for disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement in relation to the planned ballot and must appear before the court each week.

Spain's Constitutional Court has suspended the vote while judges assess its legality. Police said up to 40,000 people gathered outside the devolved government's economy ministry in the city, which was searched.

Some are billeted in three ferries rented by the Spanish government and moored in the harbours of Barcelona and Tarragona because of both a shortage of temporary housing and to avoid clashes between protesters and police forces.

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Hundreds of pro-independence supporters in Catalonia are protesting outside a courthouse to demand the release of regional government officials arrested in a crackdown by Spanish authorities over a planned secession referendum.

Sturgeon's National Party has formerly called for a fresh vote on independence before Britain leaves the European Union (EU). A pro-independence group says that about 2,500 supporters were attending the protest in Hospitalet.

Regional vice president Oriol Junqueras, whose deputy Josep Maria Jove was among those held, told Catalonia's TV3 that the crackdown meant "the rules of the game have been changed". The Catalan National Assembly, a driving force behind the secession movement, urged people to gather at noon September 21 outside the region's justice tribunal and bring tents if needed.

Mr Puigdemont had accused the central government of effectively suspending devolution after it moved to seize control of regional finances to stop them being used to fund the referendum.

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