Catalonia: Clashes after separatist leaders detained

Catalan presidential candidate Jordi Turull in the regional parliament

Legal and political constraints have prevented the slim separatist majority in Catalonia's parliament from electing a regional president and government since a December election.

Protesters gather near the Spanish government office headquarters after Spain's Supreme Court ruled some Catalan leaders will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state, in Barcelona, Spain on March 23, 2018.

The day before, Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena issued the European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and a number of other politicians of the region.

Occasional clashes broke out between riot police and protesters as the large crowds pushed against police cordons, La Vanguardia reports. The protesters are called as "Mossos" in Spain.

Jordi Turull is among the former Catalan officials facing possible rebellion charges over the regional assembly's failed attempt past year to break away from Spain.

The latest detentions throw into doubt a planned second vote in the Catalan parliament on Saturday on whether to install Jordi Turull, now in prison, as regional president.

Spanish media reported that she had fled into exile in Switzerland.

Llarena also issued worldwide arrest warrants for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium along with four of his former ministers.

The state of Catalonia declared independence from Spain in October previous year after there was friction between the regional and national governments. One of them, Clara Ponsati, has since moved on to Scotland.

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Other separatist figures were already in custody or had gone into exile overseas.

The other five Catalan politicians were also charged with misuse of public funds.

Catalan TV showed rallies in support of the jailed leaders elsewhere in the region including in the cities of Vic and Tarragona.

As the secretary general of the Catalan republican-left ERC party, Rovira played a key role in last year's events, including an independence referendum that led to a failed attempt to secede from Spain. Most prominent among them is Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia's ex-president, who has been living in Belgium since October. He described the case as "an attack on the constitutional state ... of unusual gravity and persistence".

In his 70-page ruling Llarena set out the reasons for the rebellion charges which imply the existence of a "violent uprising", which some jurists contest.

They waved flags and chanted independence slogans while some burned pictures of the Supreme Court judge and of Spain's King Felipe. Since then, the central government in Madrid has sought to neutralize the secessionist drive by taking direct control of the region and calling for new elections in December.

The regional parliament now has two months to elect a president and form a government before a new election is triggered.

Mr. Turull argued that he was being sent to jail for remaining "loyal" to his political mandate, as an elected separatist politician. Three more members of the parliament announced Thursday they were giving up their seats. "Whoever aspires to the presidency of the Catalan government should be free of judicial proceedings", he told lawmakers in the Spanish upper chamber on Thursday morning.

The court's decision will likely put an end to a planned vote this Saturday at the Catalan regional parliament to pick a new leader after Mr Puigdemont's departure past year.

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