Spanish supreme court charges 13 Catalan leaders with rebellion

Catalan separatist candidate fails to win regional presidency

The Catalan Parliament was set to convene tomorrow to vote on making Jordi Turull, who served previously as Puigdemont's chief of staff, the region's president.

Later Friday, the Spanish Supreme Court was due to decide whether a separatist candidate for the presidency of the Catalan parliament, Jordi Turull, should also be placed in pre-trial detention.

Police used batons to keep protesters away from government buildings in Barcelona.

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

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

Puigdemont voiced his support for Rovira and the other Catalans charged, on a Twitter message which said they were being indicted by people "who don't understand democracy". Spanish media reported that she had headed to Switzerland. She issued a letter explaining why she had chosen "the path of exile", but Judge Llarena later added her name to his list of global arrest warrants.

The judicial action in recent weeks has hit the Catalan independence movement, with some of its main players giving up their public roles while others have toned down their rhetoric. He described the case as "an attack on the constitutional state ... of unusual gravity and persistence".

Llarena's prison orders bring the total number of jailed separatist Catalan leaders to nine.

The crisis was sparked by a referendum, banned by Madrid, which led to the declaration of independence. Thirteen of the defendants have been charged with rebellion by Judge Llarena.

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

The supreme court judge did not mention the treatment meted out by police on voters queueing by polling stations, images of which were flashed around the world. 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. If they can not agree to a government in two months, another regional election will be held.

With numerous leaders overseas or in jail, the separatists have struggled to re-organise or even remain in politics. They will be replaced by party members.

The separatist majority of the Catalan parliament had the chance to elect Turull on Thursday, but the far-left wing of its bloc sunk his chances by abstaining.

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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