Thousands protest in Catalonia as separatist leaders detained

More than 20 people were injured in clashes between demonstrators and police in the Catalonia region of Spain during protests, news agencies reported.

Five separatists were remanded in custody yesterday, including Jordi Turull, a candidate to be president of Catalonia.

Spain's Supreme Court ruled that 25 leaders of the autonomous region of Catalonia should be tried for rebellion, embezzlement, or disobeying the state.

The Catalan politicians face an array of charges ranging from misuse of public funds to rebellion, the most serious crime, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years upon conviction.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont faces arrest in Finland after authorities there received an global warrant for his detention issued by Spain, the latest legal action against separatist politicians from the wealthy northeastern region.

Ms Rovira, the head of the separatist Esquerra Republicana party, said before the judge's announcement on Friday she had fled to avoid prosecution.

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

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

"I prefer to accept the risk of being a victim of injustice than to back away from what is happening", Turull told the Catalan assembly with his court date looming less than 24 hours away. She said: "I start a hard road, that of exile", and is believed to be in Switzerland where Anna Gabriel is now living.

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The other politicians who entered preventive detention included ex-parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell and three former members of the regional government.

The five join four other Catalan leaders already in prison.

This would entail fewer calls for engagement with Madrid and the heightening tensions between the regional and federal governments.

The semi-autonomous region has been without a leader for almost five months after central authorities took control following October's illegal independence declaration.

But the separatist majority proved to be a failure in electing a regional government in a Thursday vote.

Earlier, representatives of the parties standing for Spain's territorial integrity also demanded to cancel the vote.

The Spanish government called new regional elections in December, in which secessionist parties won again.

A leadership vote for Mr Turull had been due to take place on Saturday.

Opposition leader Ines Arrimadas of the Citizens party chided the separatists for not presenting a candidate free of legal problems, which the Spanish government has said is a prerequisite for it ending its takeover of Catalonia's regional affairs.

  • Desiree Holland