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Madrid representative in Catalonia apologizes for police violence during independence vote

Spanish Civil Guard officers remove demonstrators outside a polling station for the banned independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain. REUTERS/Susana Vera

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish government’s official representative in Catalonia apologized on Friday for the violent response by Spanish police to protesters who were attempting to vote in a banned independence referendum in the region on Sunday.

“When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who hospitalized, I can’t help but regret it and apologize on behalf of the officers that intervened,” Enric Millo said in a television interview.

It was the first apology by a Madrid government official over the clashes and could be seen as a conciliatory gesture to Catalan leaders who plan a unilateral declaration of independence of the region from Spain.

The police action, which according to Catalan health authorities around 900 injured, has been widely condemned by human rights groups as excessive force on a civilian population.

Reporting by Carla Raffin; writing by Paul Day; Editing by Adrian Croft