Catalonia crisis: Independence declaration looms

 In World
The office of the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said he would appear before the regional parliament on Monday, despite a warning from the monarch that Catalan leaders had acted “outside the law” of Spain by holding a banned referendum on independence.

Puigdemont, who told the BBC that an independence declaration would come within days, is due to address Catalans in a TV broadcast from Barcelona on Wednesday evening.

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The Catalan police force, Mossos, told CNN that Spain’s high court had summoned highest-ranking officer to answer accusations of sedition — provoking a rebellion against the state. Spanish authorities believe local police did not do enough to prevent Sunday’s banned independence vote from taking place.

Both sides appeared set on a collision course after the referendum went ahead in the face of a violent police crackdown.
King Felipe’s rare TV speech was unexpectedly hardline — he accused pro-independence leaders of “unacceptable disloyalty” and made no mention of the nearly 900 people injured in clashes with Spain’s national security forces.

Instead, the monarch blamed the referendum’s organizers for the strife.

In a BBC interview recorded before the King’s statement, Puigdemont said his government would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of next” to split from Spain.

A unilateral declaration of independence would severely test the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. If Madrid decides that Catalonia is acting unconstitutionally, it could invoke emergency powers to take control of the Catalan government.

Protesters gather at the Placa de la Universitat square in Barcelona in Tuesday's day of protest against police violence.

The sight of Spanish forces seizing Catalan institutions would further polarize opinion in the region, reeling from Sunday’s crackdown. Barcelona’s city police said 700,000 people took part in a day of protest against the police violence Tuesday.

Spain’s Foreign Minister denied that security forces used excessive force on Sunday. “If there was any use of force by police in any way it was because they were prevented from doing what they were asked to do,” Alfonso Dastis told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

King’s hardline speech

In his TV address, King Felipe called the situation “extremely serious” and said the pro-independence camp had demonstrated “an unacceptable disloyalty towards the powers of the state — a state that represents Catalan interests.”

The “irresponsible attitude” of the regional government has “put the economic and social stability of Catalonia and Spain at risk,” he said.

The King of Spain delivers his TV address Tuesday night.

The King said Catalan authorities had acted “outside the law” and emphasized the crown’s firm support for the constitution, reiterating “commitment as King to the unity and permanence of Spain.”

The King’s address made it clear that he supported the stance of Rajoy, who has refused to entertain dialogue with the Catalan authorities.

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