The European Commission has confirmed that the Catalan independence referendum was “not legal” according to Spanish law, and described aggressive beating of peaceful protesters by the Spanish riot police as an “internal matter”.

Despite a plea by the United Nations asking the Spanish authorities to respect the Catalan people’s rights to freedom of expression, video footage has shown the protesters being dragged out of polling stations, kicked, and beaten with batons.

Ballot boxes were seized and police even fired rubber bullets to clear the polling stations.

Catalan officials said 90 per cent of voters voted for independence in the referendum on 1 October and chose to leave Spain. Madrid has disregarded the result after declaring the referendum illegal and repeatedly vetoed independence.

France has also made it clear that it will not recognise Catalonia as independent from Spain, adding that an independent Catalonia would find itself outside the European Union and be obliged to reapply for membership.

Carles Puigdemont, Catalan president, will go before the regional parliament with the results of the referendum on Tuesday 10th October. If he makes the widely predicted declaration of independence the Spanish Partido Popular party says he could end up in prison.

It won’t be the first time that a Catalan leader has been jailed.

Lluís Companys was president of Catalonia from 1934. When Franco came to power, Companys fled to occupied France where he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent back to Spain. On Franco’s orders, he was tortured, beaten and executed for treason.

THE RETIRADA

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