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Catalonia: Clashes after separatist leaders detained

Catalonia: Clashes after separatist leaders detained

The second round of a vote on Jordi Turull's candidacy for head of the Catalan government has been canceled since the candidate is detained and can not show up in the parliament in person, speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent said.

A total of 25 leaders are now set to be tried for rebellion, misuse of public funds and disobeying the state after last year's independence referendum and declaration.

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

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 woman deputizing for the jailed Junqueras as leader of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, Marta Rovira, was also among those indicted, but failed to appear in court on Friday, saying in a letter that she too had made a decision to take "the path of exile".

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. "It is not right for a judge to do politics", Mr Puigdemont said.

The state of Catalonia declared independence from Spain in October a year ago after there was friction between the regional and national governments.

After the Supreme Court ruling, protesters gathered in downtown Barcelona on Friday evening, cutting off one of the city's main avenues.

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

Several separatist leaders, including former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, have been in custody since previous year.

Although the leadership vote for Mr Turull can no longer take place on Saturday, Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent said he would use the parliamentary session to read a statement in support of those in prison.

"Exile will be a hard road, but it is the only way I have to recover my political voice", Ms Rovira said in a letter.

The central government is now running Catalonia from Madrid.

Following the referendum, the central government in Madrid sacked the Catalan regional government, imposed direct rule and called new elections but pro-independence parties returned with a slim majority.

The separatist parties won regional elections in December called by Madrid after they attempted to secede, retaining their absolute majority in parliament. If they can not agree to a government in two months, another regional election will be held.

Thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Barcelona after Spain's High Court jailed five Catalan politicians who played a role in the region's declaration of independence.

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