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1 Oct, 2017 21:54

‘Catalonian citizens won the right to statehood’ – regional president

‘Catalonian citizens won the right to statehood’ – regional president

Catalonia has earned its right to have an independent state, said the head of the regional government Carles Puigdemont, praising the courage of millions of Catalan people, who, despite a violent police crackdown, took to the polling stations Sunday.

LIVE UPDATES: Catalonia holds independence referendum amid violent attempts to thwart vote

“On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia's citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic,” Puigdemont, surrounded by members of his government, told Catalans.

The Catalan leader did not announce the final outcome of the plebiscite, but said it will take a couple of days before the results are sent to the Catalan Parliament, “where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum.”

Following a day of turbulence and violence in Catalonia which left over 800 people injured, the regional government defiantly declared the referendum vote valid, despite Madrid’s claim that the plebiscite "never took place."

“We have managed to celebrate the referendum on self-determination that the State has strived to prevent,” Puigdemont said in a statement from the Palau de la Generalitat.

He praised the courage millions of Catalan people, who, despite a violent police crackdown, took to the polling stations to vote. He called on democrats from across Spain, Europe and the world to note the scale of violence by national police officers during the vote. The government in Madrid justified the police actions as “proportional.”

Puigdemon said the central government crackdown on mainly peaceful voters was “unjustified, shocking and abusive.”

At least 893 people were injured on Sunday after being attacked by police as they were exercising their democratic right to vote.

By 9:30pm, Catalonia's Health Ministry announced that 355 people suffered injuries in Barcelona while at least 249 civilians were wounded in Girona as officers used rubber bullets and other dispersal methods in attempts to prevent the vote from taking place. The rest of the injuries occurred in other parts of the region.

Addressing the injured, Puigdemont vowed that “bodily harm, humiliation, and clear human rights violations” will not go “unpunished.”

The president and the Catalan government said Catalans “have taught the world the civility of a peaceful” protest, noting that voters have “resisted the provocations.”

“The Spanish State has today written a shameful page in its history of relationship with Catalonia,” Puigdemont said, adding that “too often have repression and violence been the response of the State to Catalan aspirations.”

After polling stations closed, Spain's Prime Minister announced that “no referendum” took place in the country, claiming the majority of Catalans “obeyed the law” and did not want to participate in the independence vote after Madrid branded it “illegal” and issued a poll ban.

Rajoy praised officers for “performing their duty” despite what he said were multiple scenes of police brutality across Catalonia. The Spanish foreign minister had earlier termed the police response “proportionate.”

READ MORE: Spanish FM says police actions in Catalonia ‘proportionate,’ number of injured rises to 840+

At least 33 officers were injured in clashes with voters during Sunday's referendum, the Spanish interior ministry announced earlier on Twitter.

Brushing aside Madrid's statements, Puigdemont has appealed to European nations – which have so far adopted mostly a passive stance – to evaluate the referendum and to defend Catalan democracy.

“Catalans have won the right to be respected in Europe,” the president said. “We are European citizens who suffer the violation of rights and freedoms, direct violations of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights… It is a good idea that the European Union to reinforce the founding values when these are endangered by authoritative abuses by the State… It is necessary to act quickly to maintain moral authority inside and outside the continent.”