A Spanish judge jailed nine former members of Catalonia's separatist government Thursday and was deliberating a possible international arrest warrant for the region's ousted president, who remained in Belgium while the others appeared in a Madrid court for questioning about their efforts to break away from Spain.
Former President Carles Puigdemont and his 13-member Cabinet are being investigated for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement stemming from their pursuit of Catalan independence.
The Spanish government removed them from office on Oct. 27 and they were summoned to appear in Spain's National Court on Thursday.
After the nine Catalan Cabinet members who showed up were questioned, a judge sent eight of them to jail without bail. One was ordered held in lieu of 50,000 euros [$58,300] in bail. The seven men and two women were taken from the court in police vans hours later and assigned to prisons in the Madrid area.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Catalan towns to condemn the pre-charge detentions, which fellow separatist politicians and elected officials criticized as an attack on ideas.
"We won't give up, we won't fail, we will fight till the end," Marta Rovira, an increasingly prominent politician in Catalonia's republican-left ERC party, said.
"We have all the right in the world to live in a country with more justice, dignity and freedom," she told reporters as tear welled in her eyes.
The Spanish government said it does not comment on judges' decisions in deference to the separation of powers.
Investigative magistrate Carmen Lamela ordered the officials into custody at the request of prosecutors, who also asked Thursday for an international warrant seeking Puigdemont's arrest.
Under Spain's legal system, investigating judges can have suspects detained while a comprehensive probe, sometimes taking months, determines if they should be charged.
Puigdemont surfaced in Belgium on Tuesday with some of his ex-ministers, saying they were seeking "freedom and safety" there. He and four of the officials remained in Brussels on Thursday.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team