Israeli poll observer shocked by Spanish police violence during Catalonia vote
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Israeli poll observer shocked by Spanish police violence during Catalonia vote

Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova is part of an international delegation invited by Catalan government to observe independence referendum

Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party seen during an introduction day for new Knesset members on March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party seen during an introduction day for new Knesset members on March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A Zionist Union MK observing Catalonia’s independence referendum said she was shocked by the use of rubber bullets by Spanish police against crowds of unarmed protesters on Sunday.

Ksenia Svetlova, who is part of a delegation of about 30 people from other countries invited by Catalan regional officials to observe the voting process, told a reporter for the Sky News TV channel that the bullets used by police “can squash somebody’s head.” She said she she saw people bleeding and injured on the scene, and that she hadn’t expected to see such tactics used in Europe.

“We did expect a normal democratic process. We knew that a lot of police were here but still, you know, there should be a respect for the will of the people to vote regardless of what you think of the referendum,” Svetlova said.

The freshman Israeli lawmaker also tweeted that ballot boxes had been confiscated and that there were “major problems with the internet.”

At least 91 people were injured in Catalonia on Sunday as police and protesters clashed over a banned independence referendum in the wealthy northeastern region of Spain, the Catalan government said.

Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and forced their way into activist-held polling stations in Catalonia on Sunday as thousands flooded the streets to vote in the referendum.

Scuffles broke out as police moved in to seal off polling stations and seize ballot boxes to prevent people from voting across the wealthy northeastern region where more than 5.3 million people have been called upon to have their say on independence from Spain.

The drama unfolded after a night of tension in which thousands of people, both nervous and excited, had gathered outside polling stations before dawn.

Catalan television broadcast footage of crowds in towns and villages all over region ahead of the referendum, which has triggered one of the worst political crises in Spain in decades.

Although the region is divided over independence, most people want to vote on the matter in a legal, binding plebiscite.

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