Spain challenges Catalan independence referendum bid in court

The Spanish government asked the country’s top court on Wednesday to nullify a vote in the Catalan parliament over a disputed independence referendum bill.

The push from the wealthy northeastern region to hold an independence vote sets Spain — which is still reeling from jihadists attacks in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and a nearby seaside resort last month that killed 16 people — on course for its deepest political crisis in decades.

Catalonia’s regional parliament agreed Wednesday to debate a bill that calls for the referendum, amid jeers from opponents of independence.

Pro-separatist lawmakers, who control the regional assembly, are expected to pass the referendum bill later on Wednesday with little debate, ignoring a ruling by the Constitutional Court that it would be unconstitutional.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria swiftly announced that the government had asked the court to declare “void and without effect the agreements adopted” by the Catalan parliament to vote on the bill.

She blasted the regional assembly’s agreement to quickly vote on the bill as an “act of force” that is characteristic of “dictatorial regimes”.

“What we have lived today in Catalonia is the trampling of democracy, the trampling of Catalans, the trampling of political decency,” she added during a hastily called press conference.

At the same time public prosecutors announced they would seek criminal charges for disobedience against the president of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, and other Catalan officials for allowing the referendum law to be voted on.

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