MADRID — The first of more than 700 mayors under investigation for supporting a planned independence referendum for Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia have appeared before prosecutors, but refused to testify.

The mayors of the small towns of Oliana, Pont de Suert and Mollerussa were greeted by supporters who shouted “we will vote” after their appearances Tuesday.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has ordered the Oct. 1 referendum suspended and the central government is waging myriad legal battles to halt it, claiming it is illegal.

Spanish police on Tuesday continued raids to seize documents related to the referendum.

Catalonia, which represents a fifth of Spain’s 1.1-trillion-euro economy, has some 900 mayors. The mayor of the capital, Barcelona, is not under investigation.

The region’s 7.5 million inhabitants are nearly evenly divided over independence.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.