MADRID – The Latest on independence efforts in Spain's Catalonia region (all times local):
Spain's Interior Ministry says it's deploying police reinforcements to its northeastern region of Catalonia to maintain order and take action if a referendum on independence pledged by the Catalan government but deemed illegal by Spain should take place.
A ministry statement says the agents will provide backing for the Catalan regional police who are also under orders to prevent the Oct. 1 referendum from taking place.
The ministry said the Catalan Interior Ministry had been informed. It didn't say how many extra police would be sent. Three ferries docked at Barcelona's port will provide accommodation for the extra officers.
The deployment comes amid rising tension between Spanish and Catalan authorities over the planned referendum. Officers arrested a dozen regional government officials and seized around 10 million ballot papers this week.
Hundreds of pro-independence supporters in Catalonia are protesting outside a courthouse to demand the release of regional government officials arrested in a crackdown by Spanish authorities over a planned secession referendum.
The protest Friday in the northeastern Catalan town of Hospitalet de Llobregat is an extension of another started Thursday outside the Catalan judiciary headquarters in nearby Barcelona that attracted thousands. A pro-independence group says that about 2,500 supporters were attending the protest in Hospitalet.
Many of the demonstrators in Barcelona had slept overnight near the judiciary building in tents or hammocks strung up between lampposts.
The Catalan National Assembly civic group has called for the protests to continue until the near dozen officials detained Wednesday are released.
Spain's central government says the planned Oct. 1 referendum is illegal.