Catalan officials detained in referendum crackdown

The mayor of Mollerussa Marc Solsona leaves legal headquarters in Catalonia

But polls indicate strong support among Catalans for holding a referendum, and while opinion on the issue of separation itself appears more evenly divided, an estimated one million people attended a pro-independence march in Barcelona last week.

Regional government officials, including Catalonia's president, so far have vowed to ignore a constitutional court order to suspend the October 1 referendum on Catalan independence from Spain.

In central Barcelona, several thousand people gathered near Jove's office, many draped in red and yellow Catalan flags, chanting "Independence!"

In the statement, Barcelona says it "condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights". Spain's judiciary has also taken measures to stop advertisements related to the referendum in the news media.

Police said they confiscated over 45,000 notifications which were about to be sent to Catalans selected to staff polling stations for the vote, representing 80 percent of the numbers necessary to ensure the stations were adequately staffed.

Puigdemont has accused the Spanish government of effectively suspending regional autonomy and declaring a de facto state of emergency.

Spanish gendarmes have arrested Catalan officials and seized ballots for an independence referendum on 1 October, prompting appeals for European Union help.

"Even so, he remained confident there will be a large turnout of Catalans on October 1 - whatever form the vote takes".

"They have cross all lines", Jordi Sanchez, head of the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence civic group, said in a phone interview from the middle of the protest.

She said the 2014 Scottish independence referendum was the best example for Catalonia to follow.

In the searches made in Barcelona to obtain evidence against the polemic referendum, paralyzed by the Constitutional Court, the Civil Guard detained 12 persons, including several of the top officials.

Catalonia has long sought independence from Spain, but the country's central government has repeatedly declined to grant the region independence, saying it would violate the country's constitution. Officials said 80% of them backed independence.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry has cancelled all leave for the Guardia Civil and national police officers tasked with preventing the referendum, the Spanish government has imposed controls on regional spending and the Spanish foreign minister has said some in the independence movement have adopted "Nazi attitudes" to try to intimidate Catalan mayors opposed to the referendum.

Jordi Sole and Josep-Maria Terricabras from the Green group and Ramon Tremosa from the Liberals called on European Union commissioners "to not remain indifferent" to what they called Spain's "siege" of Catalonia. The Catalan government sources could not confirm the other arrests.

A crowd of protesters gathers outside the Catalan region's economy ministry after junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove was arrested in Barcelona, Spain, September 20, 2017.