Protests in Catalonia after independence leaders held


Supreme court judge Pablo Llarena ruled that 13 Catalan leaders be put on trial for their part in last year's Catalonia independence referendum.

One of those taken into custody was Jordi Turull who was to be the subject of a vote in the Catalan parliament on Saturday for regional president.

Judge Llarena is reactivating an arrest warrant that he dropped previous year against Mr. Puigdemont and other former members of his cabinet, amid concerns that courts in Belgium, where he fled, would instead soften the charges against them.

Each of those charged could go to prison for a maximum of thirty years under Spanish law.

News of the summons prompted Torrent to call the express parliamentary session faced with what he dubbed the "interference" of the Supreme Court.

Puigdemont, who has been in self-imposed exile in Brussels for five months and faces immediate arrest should he return to Spain, said his former colleagues had been jailed for "their ideas and their commitment", adding: "The anti-democratic Spanish state shames Europe".

The Spanish government vowed to keep control over the region until a new legal government is in place.

The unity of Spain is enshrined in the constitution, which says the country is "indivisible", and courts have blocked Catalonia's independence efforts at every turn.

Today, the Catalonian Parliament might vote again to elect a regional president.

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The semi-autonomous region has been without a president for almost five months after central authorities removed Puigdemont's government and took direct control of Catalonia's affairs.

As a result, Catalonia remains under direct rule from Madrid, imposed after the declaration.

Three of the other leaders summoned on Friday - Forcadell, Marta Rovira and Dolors Bassa - announced on Thursday night that they were abandoning their seats in the regional Catalan parliament, likely a move to avoid a return a jail.

The regional parliament now has two months to elect a president and form a government before a new election is triggered. "Exile will be a hard road, but it is the only way I have to recover my political voice", Rovira said in a letter.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge is requiring the 14 members of the former Catalan Cabinet to pay a collective deposit of 2.1 million euros ($2.6 million) before an upcoming trial establishes whether they misused public funds for an illegal independence referendum.

Llarena said he considered that the current "attack on the State" was of a "gravity. without comparison in neighbouring democracies".

The decision came hours after Marta Rovira, the general secretary of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party, failed to appear in court and fled to Switzerland.

"The anti-independence, centrist Ciudadanos party also slammed the decision".

Four other separatists had already been detained by the Spanish authorities.