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The Latest: Spanish king criticizes Catalan referendum

Family members wearing estelada or independence flags on their back walk at the end of a big rally during the Catalan National Day in Barcelona, Spain, Monday Sept. 11, 2017. Some thousands rally in Barcelona to show support for an independent Catalan nation and the right to vote in a controversial referendum that has been banned by Spain. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
People holds up a giant estelada or independence flag during the Catalan National Day in Barcelona, Spain, Monday Sept. 11, 2017.Hundreds of thousands rally in Barcelona to show support for an independent Catalan nation and the right to vote in a controversial referendum that has been banned by Spain. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
People with estelada or independence flags walk at the end of a big rally during the Catalan National Day in Barcelona, Spain, Monday Sept. 11, 2017. Many thousands rally in Barcelona to show support for an independent Catalan nation and the right to vote in a controversial referendum that has been banned by Spain. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

MADRID — The Latest on the planned independence referendum in Catalonia (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

Spain's King Felipe VI has commented for the first time on the political crisis triggered by Catalonia's plan to hold a referendum on the region's independence, saying people must respect the country's constitution, which forbids secession.

Speaking at a ceremony to award national culture prizes, Felipe says the constitution "will prevail" against any attempt to break Spain apart.

He said Wednesday the rights of all Spaniards will be upheld against "whoever steps outside constitutional and statutory law."

The Spanish government is trying to stop the planned Oct. 1 ballot through the courts. Pro-independence groups in Catalonia say the vote will go ahead even though the Constitutional Court has suspended it ahead of a ruling on its legality.

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2:40 p.m.

Spain's prime minister is urging the people of Catalonia to refrain from taking part in a planned referendum on the region's independence that he says is unconstitutional.

The pro-independence coalition governing Catalonia says the Oct. 1 ballot will go ahead despite a ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court suspending the vote until judges can rule on its legality.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is fighting to stop the ballot and he appealed to Catalans to ignore calls from independence supporters to turn out.

Rajoy said on Wednesday: "If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don't go, because the referendum can't take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act."

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1:50 p.m.

Spain's state prosecutor office says he is investigating more than 700 Catalan mayors for cooperating with a referendum on independence that has been suspended by a court, and has ordered police to arrest them if they don't comply.

The pro-independence coalition ruling Catalonia has vowed to hold the vote despite the prohibition and has asked the 947 mayors in the northeastern region to provide facilites for the plebiscite.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has pledged to stop the referendum and was granted a suspension by the Constitutional Court while judges decide on its legality.

On Wednesday, the country's top prosecutor, Jose Manuel Maza, ordered provincial prosecutors to investigate 712 mayors who have already offered municipal facilities for the Oct. 1 vote and the regional Catalan police to arrest them if they don't show up for testimony.

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