Spanish Guardia Civil interrogates civil servants amid independence vote preparations
Some investigations refer to Catalan government’s institutional campaign inviting citizens resident abroad to register on external electoral roll
The Spanish Guardia Civil is interrogating Catalan government civil servants in relation to the October 1 independence referendum preparations, the ACN has learnt. Some of the interrogations refer to the institutional campaign launched by the government inviting citizens living abroad to register on the external electoral roll, which is totally voluntary. One of the companies that was bidding to supply the ballot boxes for the referendum also received a visit by Spanish police officers.
The Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, accused the People's Party and the liberal C's party of "frightening civil servants and public workers" to stop them taking part in the organization of the referendum. Both parties are openly opposed to an independence vote in Catalonia, which they consider illegal. Puigdemont insisted that the process is "absolutely legal" and warned that nothing will change Catalans' determination to have a say about their future in October.
Puigdemont said in a speech in Parliament that the prosecution is "following orders from political parties" that are against the independence referendum. "They don’t want civil servants to even think about taking part in processes that are absolutely legal," he complained.
"They don’t want civil servants to even think about taking part in processes that are absolutely legal"
Carles Puigdemont · Catalan president
Sources from the High Court in Barcelona told the ACN that they have not ordered any interrogations. Its instruction court number 13 is currently investigating whether the government obtained citizen's fiscal details illegally –something that the executive totally denies. The same sources suggested that if the Guardia Civil is making interrogations within the framework of this case, popularly known as the 'Vidal case' after the name of the former senator that prompted the investigation, it is acting independently, as judicial police. The case is, in fact, secret.
The interrogation revelations come the day after the government nullified the public tender to supply the ballot boxes for the referendum. The Catalan president also said that the Spanish government is showing a "great interest" in "asking questions of companies that manufacture ballot boxes." Officers of the Guardia Civil visited the headquarters of one of the two companies that were bidding to supply the ballot boxes, it has been revealed.
The Catalan president did not explain in Parliament what the government's plan B is to supply ballot boxes after the tender was nullified. He said, however, that the executive will not give up and will explore "all possible means within the administrative process" to buy the ballot boxes. The Spanish general prosecutor had presented a complaint in Court against the process.
Meanwhile, sources in the Catalan government say the Guardia Civil has also interrogated several members of the executive and external companies associated with the website of the National Pact for the Referendum. Initially, the website of the campaign that numerous international personalities and politicians have signed was started by the government, but it was later passed on to the association that brings together social, cultural and political organisations in favor of a referendum.
The Spanish National Police is also investigating the government campaign to promote the registration of Catalans living abroad on an electoral register. The General State Prosecutor opened an investigation into this case last March, after suspecting this campaign of being part of the referendum preparations.
Spain’s vice president Soraya Sáenz Santamaria said if independence supporters want trouble they should not involve civil servants, private companies or other citizens. She also pointed out that the fact the Catalan government had to cancel the public tender to supply ballot boxes shows that citizens and many owners take the legal framework seriously and want their companies to be prosperous. Saénz Santamaría also invited the Catalan government to recognize that “this road goes nowhere and is building up tension within Catalan society”.
Regarding the investigations of the Spanish National Police into the external electoral roll and the website of the National Pact for the Referendum, the vice president argued that the independence supporters “could not ignore the law” and reminded citizens and the Catalan executive of the Constitutional Court’s verdict on the matter, prohibiting any preparation of the referendum.
Sáenz de Santamaría also highlighted the visit to the Vatican secretary of state, who agreed with the Spanish government that the decision on the future of Spain should be taken by all Spanish citizens. The vice president of the Spanish executive said that minorities have to defend their interests by convincing the majority.