Protests erupt in Barcelona after Catalan leaders jailed

Spain rejects plan to install nationalist Catalan leader

The ruling raised the stakes in Madrid's efforts to contain separatists in Catalonia, where a banned referendum backed independence a year ago.

Demonstrations also took place in other parts of Catalonia.

Rebellion charges are punishable with up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

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.

One protester there, Carme Sala, said: "There are two million people who want to leave Spain and they can't put us all in prison."Catalan TV showed rallies in support of the jailed leaders elsewhere in the region including in the cities of Vic and Tarragona".

The court also issued worldwide arrest warrants for six other Catalan figures who have fled overseas, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont.

Jordi Turull, a former Catalan government spokesman, fell short of an absolute majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament required to win.

Some members of the crowd burned pictures of the Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena and of Spain's King Felipe.

Felipe VI and Queen Letizia during a protest in Barcelona 23 March 2018
Some protesters in Barcelona burned

He and other secessionist leaders are due to appear before the Supreme Court on Friday morning for the opening of a new phase in the investigation which precedes a trial.

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

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

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". Leaving the country was "the only way I have to stand up against the government of the Partido Popular", she wrote, referring to the conservative party of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rights groups have already criticised the extent of Madrid's crackdown - though the European Union, wary of any splintering of its member states, has firmly supported the Spanish government's response. "Exile will be a hard road, but it is the only way I have to recover my political voice", Rovira said in a letter.

In an hour-long speech to fellow MPs outlining the policies he would pursue if elected, Mr Turull did not mention the words "independence" or "republic".

The ruling also covered Puigdemont's former deputy, Oriol Junqueras; pro-independence civil society campaigners, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart and former Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn.

However, pro-Union Catalans mostly boycotted the ballot, and turnout was less than 50 per cent.

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