Catalan separatists face charges as key figure flees overseas

Spain rejects plan to install nationalist Catalan leader

Friday night's rallies had been organised by a separatist group before the court decisions were announced, reports the BBC. "Long live a Catalan Republic for all!", she said in a letter published in the Spanish media.

In his 70-page ruling Llarena set out the reasons for the rebellion charges which imply the existence of a "violent uprising", which some jurists contest.

The separatist parties failed to elect a new regional president on March 23 after their most radical faction refused to back Turull in a vote of confidence.A second round parliamentary vote was due to take place on March 24.

Puigdemont, and another ally who went with him into self-imposed exile in Brussels after last year's independence push unravelled, did not cast votes in the Turull election.

Since then, the Spanish region has been in a state of political limbo.

He is the third candidate to be chosen by the main pro-independence parties since December's regional election, after the judiciary blocked the first two choices for the post: former president Carles Puigdemont and former rank-and-file independence leader Jordi Sànchez.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declined to comment on the legal issues but said he is not enthusiastic about calling another regional election in Catalonia.

But they have still not been able to form a government as their two previous candidates for the presidency proved problematic. Rajoy said he doesn't like repeat elections, explaining that "people vote and politicians have a duty to resolve problems and not create others".

Catalonia's fugitive ex-president says he has not spoken to the latest separatist lawmaker to flee Spain.

He was due to appear in court Friday along with several other leading separatists.

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In December, separatist lawmakers won 47.5 percent of the votes, but that was enough for them to keep their majority of parliamentary seats, under a system of proportional representation that favors their dominance in rural areas. Twelve other former ministers and activists face lesser charges of contempt for the state and embezzling €1.6 million in public funds to stage an illegal secession referendum last October.

The figure, disclosed in Judge Pablo Llarena's Friday ruling into Spain's gravest political crisis in decades, includes 1.6 million euros of public money which, according to the judicial investigation, were deviated to pay for the October 1 vote in Spain's northeastern region.

The clashes create doubts about Catalonia's political future.

The central government is running Catalonia from Madrid.

The ruling raised the stakes in Madrid's efforts to contain separatists in Catalonia, where a banned referendum backed independence a year ago.

Turull, a former Catalan Government spokesperson, has already been imprisoned by Spanish authorities over his involvement with the Catan independence movement, but at present remains free on bail.

Announcing the rebellion charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment, Llarena said Catalan separatist politicians and grassroots groups had "colluded" for the past six years to draw up a plan for regional independence in defiance of Spain's legal and constitutional order.

Adding another twist to Spain's territorial conflict over Catalonia, another Catalan politician, Marta Rovira, failed to appear in court on Friday and instead fled to Switzerland.

The four have been in pre-trial detention for months.

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