December 18, 2014 / 4:24 PM / in 3 years

Spain's state prosecutor steps down after spat over Catalonia

Pro-independence citizens hold up giant letters reading "We are ready, Independence" during the final meeting before the 9N (November 9) consultation, in Barcelona November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

MADRID (Reuters) - State prosecutor Eduardo Torres-Dulce, a key figure in the spat between Spain and Catalonia over an attempt to stage an independence vote, resigned on Thursday with the opposition saying he had come under undue pressure from the government.

Torres-Dulce had fought for the independence of his role when the central government pressed him to bring a lawsuit against Catalan head Artur Mas for going ahead with a symbolic vote on secession from Spain after Madrid blocked a full-blown referendum in the courts.

“The time frame of the public prosecutor and justice are not those of politicians and the media,” he said at the time. He also clashed with the government on the introduction of tough prison sentences for strikers and demonstrators.

Spain’s ruling People’s Party has been criticized by judges, the media and other political parties for allegedly interfering with the work of judges investigating corruption scandals at the party and at former savings bank Caja Madrid, which had close links to the PP.

A judge association, Jueces Para La Democracia, as well as politicians including the opposition Socialists and the center-right Catalan independence party CiU said on Thursday Torres-Dulce had resigned because of pressure from the government.

Torres-Dulce, who had held the position of state prosecutor for nearly three years, said he was stepping down for personal reasons. Spain’s Justice Ministry noted his efficiency and objectivity in a statement on Thursday.

Torres-Dulce went ahead with the lawsuit against Mas in November, filing criminal charges for serious disobedience and abuse of public funds. If successful, the legal action against Mas could block him from taking part in future elections.

Close to 2 million Catalans voted yes in the symbolic independence vote on Nov. 9. Because of legal restrictions set on any referendum, the ballot was set up and manned by grassroots pro-independence organizations.

Reporting by Raquel Castillo, Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Julien Toyer and Alison Williams

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