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Madrid orders Catalan police to crack down on officials organising poll

People wave esteladas or independence flags in support as Catalan mayors under investigation take part in a march, outside the Generalitat Palace, to protest against the ruling of the constitutional court ahead of a planned independence referendum in the Catalonia region, in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Spain's government has ordered Catalonia's regional police force to identify officials at local schools and other civic buildings expected to be used as polling stations in a controversial independence referendum.

Spanish authorities say the October 1 ballot on whether the Catalan region should secede from Spain is illegal.

They are cracking down on organisers by threatening them with prosecution.

The order places further pressure on the Catalan police, who were acting on instructions from central Spanish authorities against their fellow Catalans in the emotionally-charged stand-off.

The Spanish Interior Ministry in Madrid said on Tuesday the order to note down the personal details of officials was given to police by the top state prosecutor in Catalonia.

The development came as US President Donald Trump and Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told journalists they opposed the referendum in Spain's Catalonia region scheduled for Sunday.

"I'm just for a united Spain," said Mr Trump, who cast doubt on polling data predicting a 'yes' vote for independence will win.

"I really think the people of Catalonia would stay with Spain. I think it would be foolish not to."

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