BARCELONA: Protests erupt as Spanish court jails 5 Catalan leaders

BARCELONA: Protests erupt as Spanish court jails 5 Catalan leaders”

Twenty-four protesters were lightly injured in clashes with police, emergency services said.

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 past year.

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.

Spain's Supreme Court said on Friday it would prosecute 13 key Catalan separatists for "rebellion", a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail.

Llarena also issued worldwide arrest warrants for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium along with four of his former ministers.

Judge Llarena also issued an arrest warrant for Marta Rovira, the head of the separatist Esquerra Republicana party, who failed to appear in court on Friday.

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.

The unity of Spain is enshrined in the Constitution, which says the country is "indivisible", and courts have blocked Catalonia's independence efforts at every turn.

Demonstrations also took place in other parts of Catalonia.

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

The court did not give a date for the trial.

"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.

Five people were held in custody, including Catalan presidential candidate Jordi Turull who was due Saturday to seek a second round vote in the regional parliament, after failing to be elected earlier in the week.

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 vote was boycotted by Catalans opposed to the region splitting from Spain.

Since then, Mr. Rajoy has repeatedly called on the separatists to form a new government that recognizes Spanish sovereignty and is not led by one of the politicians indicted by Spain's judiciary.

The separatist parties won regional elections in December called by Madrid after they attempted to secede, retaining their absolute majority in parliament.

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 previous year.

They include Jordi Turull, a former minister of the ousted regional Cabinet, who on Thursday failed in his bid to be elected as the region's new president.

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