Spain's top court to try 13 Catalan leaders for rebellion

Spain rejects plan to install nationalist Catalan leader

Spain's Supreme Court said on Friday it will try 13 Catalan independence leaders on charges of rebellion, including ousted regional President Carles Puigdemont and his top aides and allies.

Spanish Judge Pablo Llarena ordered detention without bail for Jordi Turull, the president of Catalonia's regional government, former regional legislators Josep Rull, Raul Romeva and Dolors Bassa, as well as the ex-president of the parliament, Carme Forcadell. If found guilty, they face up to 30 years in prison.

The case against Catalan separatists is now led by Judge Llarena from the Supreme Court, but two other courts, one in Madrid and another in Barcelona, are also investigating officials accused of civil disobedience and other offenses, including organizing the independence referendum held last October, even after it was declared illegal by Madrid.

Many Catalans went to the streets after yesterday the Spanish Supreme Court made a decision to sue 25 of the former district leaders who took measures to declare the independence of the area in the autumn of a year ago.

Thousands of protesters descended on the streets of Catalonia late on Friday after Spain's supreme court detained five separatist leaders for their role in last year's independence bid.

At least 20 people were injured as police used riot batons to keep protesters away.

Later on Friday, Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent said he would read a statement in support of those in prison in the parliamentary session.

Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont left Finland before authorities could act on a Spanish arrest warrant, a Finnish MP says.

Spain rejects plan to install nationalist Catalan leader

Five other Catalan politicians, including Mr Puigdemont, fled to Brussels following the failed secession attempt in late October.

The court has not yet ruled on whether they will be jailed in advance of a trial, although one of the five, Marta Rovira, said on Friday she had fled Spain and gone into exile.

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.

The region will struggle to find a new president, with most pro-independence leaders now formally charged.

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". Parties have two months to propose and elect a presidential candidate.

The court's decision means the vote on Turull's leadership can not go ahead because his presence is mandatory.

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.

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