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8 Spanish police officials to be investigated for referendum crackdown

Spanish National Police taking action on 1 October 2017. (Jordi Play / ACN)

Eight Spanish police officials are to be formally questioned over the orders they gave to their subordinates at 27 polling stations in Barcelona during the 2017 independence referendum.

The referendum has not only led to several trials against its organisers, but also to investigations into the officials in charge of the operation on the ground – but up to now, not their superiors.

However, a local Barcelona court has ordered eight officers who were ‘directly responsible for the … operations carried out in each polling station which are being probed … to be put under investigation,’ according to a ruling dated 1 August which was made public on Thursday. It has summoned the eight officers to appear before a Barcelona court on October 9 and 11.

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Footage shown around the world showed police dragging voters from polling stations by their hair, throwing people down stairs and striking them with batons during the 1 October 2017 referendum in Catalonia, sparking shock and complaints from human rights groups.

Some Spanish National Police officers during the 1 October 2017 referendum. (Gerard Vilà / ACN)

According to human rights group Irídia, this new investigation is ‘a big change’ compared to previous summons, because those were made for ‘specific actions that took place at specific polling stations.’

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The association’s lawyer Anaïs Franquesa said that this is ‘a great step towards clarifying liabilities’. For her, ‘those in charge of the operation on the ground at the 27 polling stations where there was police violence’ will testify in court.

In February, a higher Barcelona regional court ordered an ‘in depth investigation’ to discover the specific orders that were given by the officials in charge of the operation.

The 2017 referendum crackdown left 1,066 people injured, according to the Catalan health service, of which 436 were in Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

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