Spain's Director of Public Prosecutions, José Manuel Maza, announced shortly after 1 p.m. on Thursday that his office was preparing criminal charges against all the members of the Catalan government and those members of the Catalan Parliament's Speaker's Committee who had organised the passage of the referendum bill through the regional parliament on Wednesday.
The charges would be "at least" contempt, abuse of authority and misuse of public funds.
"As Director of Public Prosecutions, I want to let public opinion know about the actions this office is carrying out in defence of the rule of law and legality, faced with the gravity of the situation generated in the autonomous community of Catalonia", he said, reading prepared remarks.
That situation, he continued, had been "caused by Catalan government leaders who, acting in violation of the Constitution and of the [Catalan] Statute of Autonomy and blatantly disobeying reiterated rulings from the Constitutional Court, have called the so-called self-determination referendum".
He said his office would file the charges at the regional high court in Catalonia in the next few hours.
Before the summer, the prosecutor's office had also floated the idea of charges of sedition for separatist leaders who tried to use the police to aid the process of secession from Spain.
He has also ordered police forces (Civil Guard, National Police and Catalan Police, the Mossos) to investigate the organisation of the referendum and seize materials being prepared for the vote.
The chief prosecutor in Catalonia, and those in the cities of Barcelona, Tarragona, Gerona and Lérida are aware of the measures.
Maza said his office would continue to act "quickly and firmly" to guarantee "our framework of constitutional coexistence".
Published: 2:44 pm, Sep 07 2017 (link)
Catalan Government Says Criminal Charges "Change Absolutely Nothing"
In a statement e-mailed to journalists on Thursday, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said the criminal charges announced by Spain's Director of Public Prosecutions will not change the decision to hold the referendum.
He denounced that a "concealed state of siege" now existed in the region, and that such a sate leads to "the defence of the most fundamental rights: human rights, the right to ideological freedom, the right to the freedom of expression, the right to political initiative".
"Calling a referendum is not a crime", he said: "They don't have enough power to stop this much democracy".
He said people should enjoy this "historic moment for Catalonia".