Catalan separatists fail to elect leader of Spanish region

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The Supreme Court Judge, Pablo Llarena, ruled on Friday that they should be returned to jail as they represented a flight risk.

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

Following the ruling, protesters clashed with police in the centre of Barcelona late on Friday.

Catalan television aired footage of more crowds in towns in the region, including Vic and Tarragona.

He did not set a date for the trial.

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

The deputy leader of the leftwing separatist ERC party, whose chief is now in jail, is now in Switzerland, according to Spanish media. "Long live a Catalan Republic for all!", she said in a letter published in the Spanish media.

Judge Llarena, in announcing his ruling, cited injuries to sixty Spanish policemen who had attempted to prevent an independence referendum from going ahead in Catalonia on October 1. He described the case as "an attack on the constitutional state ... of unusual gravity and persistence". Thirteen of the defendants have been charged with rebellion by Judge Llarena.

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.

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.

Catalonia held snap elections in December called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The plan backfired as parties favouring a split with Spain won the vote, though they have been unable to agree on a common strategy or elect a new regional president.

With numerous leaders overseas or in jail, the separatists have struggled to re-organise or even remain in politics.

Carrizosa, who speaks on behalf of the largest single party in the legislature, said: "Those who have caused the discredit of institutions and the division of Catalan society run away when they have to respond for their actions".

On Thursday, the body failed to elect a leader after the far-left secessionist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party broke ranks with the independence movement to protest the bloc's support for engagement with Madrid rather than unilateral secession.

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.

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