Million march for Catalonian independence

Spain's Rafael Nadal recently won the US Open in New York

The prosecutor's office ordered 712 mayors in Catalonia who have backed the vote to be summoned to court as official suspects in the criminal probe.

Spain's state prosecutor is investigating more than 700 Catalan mayors for cooperating with a referendum on independence that has been suspended by a court.

Most of Catalonia's 948 mayors have pledged to permit use of public spaces for the vote, but Ada Colau, head of the region's biggest city Barcelona, has asked for assurances that civil servants involved will not risk losing their jobs.

This handout picture released on September 11, 2017 by the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (Catalan National Assembly) shows an aerial view of people waving a giant "Estelada" (pro-independence Catalan flag) and a giant banner depicting a ballot box and reading in Catalan "Referendum is democracy" during a pro-independence demonstration, on September 11, 2017 in Barcelona during the National Day of Catalonia, the "Diada".

Those against independence complained that a day meant for all Catalans had been hijacked by the separatists - and even more so this year ahead of the referendum. They argue that Spain's 1978 constitution bars regional governments from calling independence referendums.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is increasing the pressure to prevent an independence referendum from going ahead.

"If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don't go, because the referendum can't take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act", Mr Rajoy said.

In his first comments on the growing political crisis, Felipe said the rights of all Spaniards will be upheld against "whoever steps outside constitutional and statutory law".

Spain's Constitutional Court suspended a referendum law that was fast-tracked through Catalonia's regional parliament last week.

Catalonia, roughly the same size as Belgium, has its own language and customs, and already has significant powers over matters such as education and healthcare.

But Spain's economic problems, coupled with a perception that the wealthy northeastern region's 7.5 million people pay more in taxes to Madrid than they get in return, have pushed the independence question to the centre stage.

M - Up to a million Catalans have gathered in Barcelona to call for independence less than three weeks before the region is due to hold a vote on whether to break away from Spain, The Guardian reported.

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