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18 November 2017 Last updated 53 minutes ago

Spain's Constitutional Court declares Catalan referendum law void

People queue to lay flowers in front of ballot boxes used during the Catalan independence referendum in Pineda de Mar, on October 3, 2017, during a general strike in Catalonia. © Lola Bou/ AFP People queue to lay flowers in front of ballot boxes used during the Catalan independence referendum in Pineda de Mar, on October 3, 2017, during a general strike in Catalonia.

The Spanish Constitutional Court has unanimously annulled the Catalan Referendum Law, approved by the region’s government ahead of the recent independence vote, according to a court spokesman. The Catalan government responded immediately, with spokesman Jordi Turull saying the decision was “fast,” while “the mandate of the referendum continues.”

The court ruled “the law encroached state powers regarding popular consultations,” and that it “violated, among other constitutional principles, the supremacy of the Constitution, national sovereignty and the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation,” El Pais quoted the decision as saying.

In September, the court suspended the legislation while studying its legality. On Monday, two leaders of pro-independence groups were detained in prison without bail as part of an investigation into alleged sedition. Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart from the National Catalan Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium, respectively, have been jailed on suspicion of organizing protests ahead of the vote.

Their detention, though, is said to be a judicial matter, not a political one, according to Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala. The Catalan government reacted angrily, calling it “another episode of democratic disgrace.”

The investigation will look into the suspected role of Sanchez and Cuixart in staging the protests on September 20 and 21, which saw thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets and impeding the searches of government buildings, according to the judge.

Meanwhile, the High Court took away the passport of Catalonia's Mossos police chief, Josep Lluis Trapero, who is being investigated for the same offense. Trapero’s forces are accused of failing to help national police officers who were blocked inside a building in Barcelona by protesters.