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Spain files lawsuit against Catalan president over pro-independence symbols

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Barcelona (AFP)

Spanish public prosecutors said Wednesday they have filed a criminal lawsuit against Catalan president Quim Torra for disobedience after he ignored orders to remove pro-independence symbols from regional public buildings.

Torra is accused of "repeatedly" ignoring petitions from Spain's electoral board to take down all pro-independence symbols from Catalan regional government buildings ahead of a snap general election on April 28.

A high court in Catalonia will now have to decide whether or not it accepts the complaint. If Torra, who says the issue is one of free speech, is convicted of disobedience he could be dismissed and barred from holding public office.

Since Torra's government was sworn in in June 2018 a large banner has hung on its Barcelona headquarters featuring a yellow ribbon -- a symbol of protest against the imprisonment and trial of separatist leaders for their role in a failed attempt to declare independence in 2017 -- along with the message, "Free political prisoners and exiles".

After ignoring two deadlines imposed by the board, the Catalan government finally decided to remove the yellow ribbon on Thursday.

Workers covered the original banner with another with the exact same message. But the yellow ribbon has been replaced with a white one with a diagonal red stripe -- still a subtle nod to separatism as it was used in the past by a grassroots pro-independence group.

Then on Friday workers removed that banner before regional Catalan police arrived to enforce the electoral board's order.

Torra called the electoral board's decision "unfair" and said he planned to file a complant against the body.

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