Catalonia independence: Spain strips police chief of powers

The Spanish government has stripped the head of Catalonia’s regional police of his powers, hours after direct rule was imposed on the region.

This is the first specific measure taken since the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence.

PM Mariano Rajoy has also announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of the Catalan leader, and called for snap local elections.

Demonstrations for and against independence went on into the night.

More are expected on Saturday, with a rally “for the unity of Spain and the constitution” to be held in Madrid.

The crisis began when Catalan leaders held an independence referendum, defying a ruling by the Constitutional Court which had declared it illegal.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence. Others boycotted the vote after the court ruling.

On Friday the Spanish Senate granted Mr Rajoy’s government the power to impose direct rule on Catalonia, and after an emergency cabinet meeting Mr Rajoy spelled out what that would entail.

The statement from Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido (in Spanish) followed hours later, announcing the “cessation” of Josep Lluís Trapero Álvarez as the regional police commissioner.

Mr Trapero was already under investigation for sedition, accused of failing to help Spain’s Guardia Civil police tackle thousands of pro-independence protesters in Barcelona during the run-up to the referendum.

Mr Rajoy said Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet would be sacked, the parliament dissolved and elections called.

“[Mr Puigdemont] had the opportunity to return to legality and to call elections,” he said.

“It is what the majority of the Catalonian people asked for – but he didn’t want to do it. So the government of Spain is taking the necessary measures to return to legality.”

Regional elections are scheduled for 21 December. (Courtesy BBC)

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