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The head of the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police), Josep Lluís Trapero, has this morning personally received an order from the Public Prosecutor to prevent the upcoming independence referendum from taking place and to seize the ballot boxes or any material needed for it. He was given these instructions during a meeting also attended by the Catalan heads of the Civil Guard and the National Police Corps, Ángel Gonzalo and Sebastián Trapote. The meeting lasted half an hour. Tomorrow, the message will be repeated to the police leaders in Catalonia's four provinces, who have been summoned to meetings in the Public Prosecutor Offices in the provincial capitals of Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona.

In a written notice (in Spanish) to the three bodies, the Public Prosecutor warns that "any actions by the authorities, civil servants or individuals in collusion with the former" aimed at the holding of the referendum will constitute, at least, crimes of disobedience, perversion of justice and misuse of public funds, punishable with up to 8 years in prison and up to 20 years of ban from public office.

Confiscating ballot boxes

For this reason, the police forces are ordered that "any act taken" towards the preparation or holding of the referendum should led to the urgent writing of the appropriate report or statement and the adoption of "the necessary measures to confiscate the resources or tools destined for the preparation or celebration of the illegal referendum". Specifically, the instruction says that they will have to "seize ballot boxes, election envelopes, instruction manuals for polling station staff, election propaganda, computer parts, as well as any material for advertising, promoting or carrying out the referendum".

This was the order the Public Prosecutor's Office gave the three police chiefs this morning according to a note and the written instructions published as soon as the meeting ended. The Public Prosecutor emphasised that it was issuing this order after the Constitutional Court's statements made clear "without a shadow of doubt, the illegality of any act aimed at celebrating the self-determination referendum".

Signing the order

The order will be sent urgently, within a maximum of 24 hours, to all police units and police leaders will have to sign and deliver a document certifying that they've received it.

The first to arrive at today's meeting was the person in charge of the National Police in Catalonia, who entered the Public Prosecutor's Office building directly by car. Immediately thereafter, the head of the Civil Guard in Catalonia, Ángel Gonzalo entered on foot.

Angel Gozalo Guardia Civil Sergi Alcàzar

Ángel Gozalo, head of the Civil Guard in Catalonia / Photo: Sergi Alcàzar

Last to arrive was Trapero, head of the Mossos, who got out of a car to enter the building on foot. None of the three made any comments before going inside. It was 11:54am when Trapero arrived, 6 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start.

At 12.34pm, the car park door opened and the three vehicles left. None of them made a statement either when leaving through the crowd of journalists waiting in the street.