Monday, Oct. 2, 2017

The Latest: Rajoy defends police actions in Catalonia

By The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia's independence referendum and Spain's response (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

The Spanish government says Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in meetings with political opponents, has defended the police performance on Sunday when hundreds were injured in the crackdown on a banned referendum on Catalonia's independence.

The main opposition leader, the Socialist Pedro Sanchez, has criticized the violence that left more than 1,300 hurt, most of them civilians.

The business-friendly Ciudadanos (Citizens) party leader Albert Rivera also met with Rajoy on Monday as the prime minister looks for consensus on how to proceed with the crisis.

A statement by the government said that Rajoy also held talks with top leaders of the European Union and with French president Emmanuel Macron to explain "the failure" of the vote attempt by the Catalan separatist government.

Rajoy told them that "the government's determination to halt the illegal referendum contributes to keeping the stability and democracy in the whole European Union."

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6:45 p.m.

Shares in Catalonia's two main banks have dropped on Spain's main stock exchange following political uncertainty after leaders of the northeastern region pushed ahead with a secession bid.

Shares in Caixabank and Banco Sabadell each lost more than 4 percent of their value in Monday's session.

Sabadell's shares were valued at 1.67 euros, down 4.5 percent, its lowest value since April. Caixabank lost 4.4 percent to 4.05 euros per share, its lowest since June.

Uncertainty was also blamed for losses across the board in Spain's main index, the Ibex 35.

Catalan separatist leaders have pledged to seek secession after staging a referendum vote on Sunday amid a violent crackdown by Spanish police forces.

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5:35 p.m.

Spain's Interior Ministry says that 431 National Police and Civil Guard agents suffered wounds or bruising during violent clashes with civilians in Catalonia.

The ministry says that 39 officers received immediate treatment but none was hospitalized. The remaining 392 suffered minor injuries and bruises resulting from kicks, bites and scratches.

The ministry had previously reported 33 as the number of officers injured.

More than 890 civilians were treated for injuries, most of them not serious, according to Catalan regional health authorities.

Police using batons and firing rubber bullets cleared protesters hoping to vote in Sunday's disputed referendum on the northeastern region's independence from Spain.

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5:20 p.m.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis says he doesn't see the police intervention during the Catalonia referendum as heavy-handed.

Speaking ahead of an Italian-Spanish forum in Rome on Monday, Dastis said it is "a matter of interpretation."

"I don't think there was such a heavy hand, but in any case, they had to react." He said "some of the pictures are real, some of them are not real" but that police had simply reacted to the fact that people were preventing them from doing what they had been ordered to do by the courts.

He said the Spanish government would have preferred not to have seen the images, "but it was not a deliberate act of violence." Spanish riot police smashed their way into polling stations across Catalonia on Sunday trying to derail the independence referendum that the Spanish government said was illegal. The clashes injured 893 people.

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5:15 p.m.

Amnesty International says its observers in Catalonia witnessed "excessive use of force" by Spain's national police and civil guard agents trying to stop the voting in a banned referendum.

The rights group says in an emailed statement that violence was used against people who were "passively resisting" a judge's order to impede the referendum.

Researchers saw images of some demonstrators "showing violent attitudes" against police agents, the group says, calling for an investigation that leads to criminal prosecution if necessary.

More than 890 civilians were treated for injuries, most of them not serious, according to Catalan regional health authorities. Spain's Interior Minister says that 33 police officers were also injured.

The Spanish government says no referendum took place because the independence bid by regional secessionist politicians is illegal. A constitutional court had suspended it.

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4:35 p.m.

European Union chief Donald Tusk has appealed to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to "avoid further escalation and use of force" in the standoff over the Catalonian independence referendum.

Tusk spoke to the Spanish leader Monday, and said that even though he said shared the constitutional reasoning for not recognizing Sunday's referendum in Catalonia, he wanted the violence that marred the poll not to be repeated.

Tusk said in a Twitter message that he "appealed for finding ways to avoid further escalation and use of force."

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3:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron is noting his attachment to Spain's "constitutional unity" one day after Catalonia's disputed independence referendum.

The French presidency said in a statement that Macron had a phone call Monday with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in which he told Rajoy that he is France's contact in Spain.

The French statement didn't comment on the violent crackdown Sunday by Spanish police trying to stop the referendum that left over 890 people and 33 police injured.

Catalonia's regional government says 90 percent of those who voted chose independence from Spain, and has called for international mediation to solve the political deadlock.

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3:25 p.m.

Spain's interior minister has lamented the hundreds of injuries linked to the Spanish police's crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum Sunday — but he says the thousands of police reinforcements sent to the region would be staying as long as needed.

Speaking Monday on Spain's Antena 3 TV, Juan Ignacio Zoido reiterated that police acted under a judicial order to prevent the referendum from taking place. But he admitted that there were some scenes he would have preferred not to have happened.

He said that police had simply tried to remove election material, but in some cases people had resisted them Sunday.

Spain sent at least 5,000 extra National Police and National Guard officers to join the estimated 10,000 members of both forces already stationed there.

The officers fired rubber bullets and clubbed and kicked many people who took to the streets to defend the referendum that Spain insists was illegal.

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2:15 p.m.

Serbia's president says the European Union has shown "double standards and hypocrisy" in rejecting the Catalan referendum but not the independence of ex-Serbian province of Kosovo.

Aleksandar Vucic said Monday his government supports the territorial integrity of Spain, one of five EU member nations that have not recognized Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, following a brutal 1998-99 war. It was backed by the United States and its allies, but not Russia and China.

Meanwhile, Poland's government has expressed hope for a "quick stabilization of the situation in Catalonia" through dialogue and compromise, "without resorting to force or street demonstrations."

But Poland's foreign ministry also described the situation in Catalonia to be Spain's "internal matter," saying "we fully respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the unity of the Kingdom of Spain."

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2 p.m.

The U.N. human rights chief is calling on Spain's government to ensure "thorough, independent and impartial investigations" into acts of violence linked to the Catalan independence referendum.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein says he's "very disturbed" by Sunday's violence in Catalonia. He said police responses must "at all times be proportionate and necessary."

The rights chief said in a statement Monday the situation should be resolved through political dialogue.

Catalan health officials say 893 people were treated in the hospital during Sunday's clashes with riot police who turned up to stop people from voting.

Zeid, a Jordanian prince who goes by his first name, also urged Madrid to accept "without delay" the requests of two U.N.-mandated investigators on freedom of assembly and minorities to be granted access to visit Catalonia.

Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said the two U.N. "special rapporteurs" had previously sought the access before the weekend's violence.

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1:40 p.m.

Catalonia's leader is calling for international mediation to solve the political deadlock over the Catalan independence referendum.

Carles Puigdemont also called on Spain's national police reinforcements to leave the northeastern region, a day after the vote on whether Catalonia should secede from Spain led to violence as police moved to stop voting.

He said the regional government will investigate responsibilities in rights violations.

Puigdemont called for the European Union to consider Catalonia's desire to break away from Spain as a regional problem, and urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government to accept mediation.

The Catalan president says the regional parliament will be carrying out in the next days the mandate to declare independence in the light of the "yes" victory in the referendum.

Spain's government says the referendum was illegal and that results lack any validity.

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1:20 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister has called for urgent talks between the opposing sides in the dispute over Catalonia's independence drive.

In a statement Monday, Sigmar Gabriel said that "the pictures which reached us from Spain yesterday show how important it is to stop the spiraling escalation now."

Gabriel urged the parties to remain calm, act within the limits of the Spanish constitution and find a "politically sustainable solution."

He added that the rule of law is a fundamental pillar of the European Union and "this principles unites us, with Spain in our midst."

Gabriel said he was convinced that "Spain will be able to overcome its internal divisions if both sides can agree on a common path."

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1 p.m.

The German government says it hopes there will be "a swift calming of the situation" in Catalonia following violence over Sunday's independence referendum.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the government said Monday that "Germany is extremely close to the Kingdom of Spain and its people," adding: "We are therefore closely watching the current dispute surrounding the status of Catalonia, and naturally also the developments yesterday."

The statement said Germany hoped the situation will resolve itself "within the framework of the Spanish constitution."

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in August that Germany was greatly interested in the stability of Spain but that the independence question was an internal matter for the country.

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12:30 p.m.

The European Union's executive called on all sides in Spain "to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue" in the wake of the violence that marred the Catalonian independence referendum Sunday.

EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas also said the Commission trusts "the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process."

"These are times for unity and stability," Schinas said. "We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics."

He said EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Rajoy would talk later Monday.

Catalan officials say the poll, which Spain insists was illegal and invalid, shows that a majority who voted favor secession.

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12:20 p.m.

Catalonia's health services have raised the number of people injured during Sunday's clashes over the independence referendum to 893.

The region's health department said Monday four people remained in Catalan hospitals, two of them in serious condition although their lives were not threatened.

The department said most of the injured suffered bruises and cuts.

Police used batons, fired rubber bullets, and clubbed and kicked many people who took to the streets to defend the referendum that Spain said was illegal and which a court had ordered officers to prevent.

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11:30 a.m.

People in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia have been left upset by the Spanish police's crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum. Still, many say it was right to stage the vote.

"It was a day of recognition of rights. The human right to vote," said 45-year-old office worker Olga Gil. "What the police and the Spanish state did was totally shameful. I hope what we saw was a clear message."

Spanish riot police smashed their way into polling stations across Catalonia on Sunday to try and stop the referendum on independence that the Spanish government said was illegal. Some 850 people have been treated for injuries. Catalonia said preliminary poll results showed 90 percent favored independence after under half the electorate voted.

"I am very annoyed for the both sides involved in what happened yesterday," said Eric Tigra, 56. "I think both sides involved committed grave mistakes. But we must also highlight that if the people of Catalonia go out in the streets and you don't listen to them then something is not working right."

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10:20 a.m.

Spain's stock market and the euro are down amid concern over the potential impact of the Catalan independence vote.

The Ibex 35 index in Madrid is down 0.8 percent at 10,299 points on a day when other global markets, even elsewhere in Europe, are higher. Among the biggest losers is Banco Sabadell SA, based in the Catalan town of Sabadell, which is down 3 percent.

The euro also is down 0.6 percent at $1.1742.

Overall, investors seem to think the independence vote will be solved somehow. Analysts at UniCredit bank wrote in a report to investors on Monday that they expect the sides to negotiate "to avoid a degeneration of the crisis - taking into account that the Catalan population is highly divided about the issue."

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10:15 a.m.

The co-leader of Germany's Green party has criticized the use of force by police during Catalonia's independence referendum.

Cem Ozdemir, who is being touted as Germany's possible next foreign minister, told the dpa news agency that "the massive police operation against people who wanted to vote is a mistake."

He was quoted Monday as saying that the violence "will only increase the political problem."

Ozdemir also called for a "serious offer of dialogue from (Spanish) Prime Minister (Mariano) Rajoy" and suggested the European Commission should mediate any talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to publicly comment on Sunday's violence and the outcome of the referendum, which Catalonia's regional government says resulted in 90 percent of voters backing a divorce from Spain. Spain has called the referendum illegal and invalid.

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9:20 a.m.

Catalonia's government will hold a closed-door Cabinet meeting to discuss the next steps in its plan to declare independence from Spain following a disputed referendum marred by violence. Regional officials say the vote, which Spain insists is illegal and invalid, shows that a majority favor secession.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will chair Monday's meeting, which is expected to consider asking the regional parliament to vote on an independence declaration later in the week.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, meanwhile, meets with ruling party leaders before seeking a parliamentary session to discuss how to confront the country's most serious crisis in decades.

Catalonia said preliminary poll results showed 90 percent favored independence after under half the electorate voted in a day that saw around 850 people injured in clashes with police.

2017-10-02 19:12:18 GMT

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