Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A Spanish court on Monday ordered former Catalan leaders to repay the cost of organizing what it ruled was an illegal independence vote four years ago.
The Court of Auditors ordered former Catalan leader Artur Mas and nine other former officials to pay $5.6 million in public funds to conduct the referendum on Nov. 9, 2014. It was the forerunner of last year's referendum in which Catalan separatists held what Spain described as another illegal vote.
Four years ago more than 80 percent of the 2.2 million voters favored independence for the autonomous northeastern region but fewer than half of registered voters went to the polls.
Mas conducted the vote after failing to get the Spanish authorities to allow a full referendum, defying an order by Spain's Constitutional Court, which later ruled it was illegal.
The Court of Auditors decided that Mas is responsible for the entire costs, including interest, "caused" to the government but the other former officials, including former Vice President Joana Ortega, ex-counsel Francesc Homs and former Education Minister Irene Rigau must contribute.
Costs included buying 7,000 computers for use in polling stations, and paying for a website and advertising.
Carles Puigdemont, who succeeded Mas and lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium, blasted the court ruling. He said the ruling was "an abuse and an unworthy arbitrary act" in a post on Twitter.
Mas, Ortega and Rigau have been barred from public office.
Last December, the court seized Mas' house and assets of the others involved to meet the bail of nearly $6 million.