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Catalonia protests: Man 'shot in eye with rubber bullet' amid police crackdown

A man has been severely injured after being shot in the eye with a rubber bullet during the confrontation between police and voters over the Catalan independence referendum .

The Civil Guard opened fire on citizens trying to vote in the referendum, which Madrid deemed illegal, using rubber bullets — something the local Catalan police force banned in 2014.

Officers were seen beating and dragging people down the stairs of polling stations. At least 861 people were injured, according to the Catalan authorities.

The man was reportedly injured during a stand-off between police and voters outside the Ramon Llull school in Barcelona around 10:30am on Sunday.

He was taken to the Hospital de Sant Pau for surgery, El Periodico reported .

The use of rubber bullets by local police was banned in the region following a number of controversies surrounding their use by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, after numerous reports of serious injuries.

In 2012, a local woman named Ester Quintana lost an eye after being shot with a rubber bullet during a strike. The local parliament passed a law in late 2013 which forbade the Mossos from using them from April 2014.

But this ruling does not apply to the Civil Guard, which is a centralised police answerable to Madrid, who were brought in to stop the referendum.

A total of 861 people were reportedly injured in the violence which was condemned by Catalan separatists and the international community.

But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy remained defiant saying there had been no independence referendum and the Catalan people had been tricked into taking part in an illegal action.

As the results of the ballot came in, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont declared that 90 per cent of the votes which were not seized had been in favour of independence. He previously said if a simple majority of voters were in favour of independence he would announce Catalonia’s unilateral secession from Spain within 48 hours –prompting the biggest constitutional crisis in Spain since the restoration of democracy in the 1970s.

Mr Rajoy is reportedly considering whether to enact Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which enacts direct rule of Catalonia from Madrid.

The act, which has never been invoked, describes itself as being “for exception cases only” such as when a region’s actions “gravely damage Spain’s general interest”.