Spanish deadline looms for Catalonia

The Catalan president attends a commemoration as Madrid awaits his final say on independence.

The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region has attended a commemoration less than 24 hours before a Spanish deadline to give his final say on independence.

Carles Puigdemont and other senior politicians paid tribute in Barcelona to a Catalan leader who was executed under Franco in the Civil War.

He said his government was “against aggression and against imposed rule”.

Spain has given him until 10:00 (08:00 GMT) on Monday to clarify whether he has or has not declared independence.

If he confirms that he has, he will have until Thursday to withdraw the declaration or Catalonia, which has substantial autonomy, faces the prospect of direct rule from Madrid.

On Sunday, Mr Puigdemont and others including the Mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, visited the grave of Lluis Companys near Montjuïc Castle on the 77th anniversary of his execution by firing squad.

The spokesman for Spain’s ruling Popular Party, Pablo Casada, warned this week that Mr Puigdemont might end up like Companys, clarifying later that he had only meant he might end up in prison.

Born in 1882, he studied law and became involved in left-wing politics, rising to become Catalonia’s president in 1933, just a year after Spain had restored the region’s autonomy after a gap of more than two centuries.

When he proclaimed a “Catalan state” the following year, he was arrested and jailed, but walked free in 1936 after a left-wing government was elected in Spain.

During the ensuing Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Catalan president struggled to maintain unity among various republican factions in Barcelona.

As Franco’s forces swept into Catalonia in 1939, he crossed into France but was arrested there after the Nazi invasion and handed over to Franco by the Germans.

Convicted of “military rebellion”, he was executed by firing squad in Barcelona’s Montjuïc Castle on 15 October 1940.

“We will be committed towards peace, against violence, against aggression and against imposed rule,” Mr Puigdemont said.

On Tuesday, he signed a declaration of Catalonia as an independent republic but simultaneously announced he was suspending its implementation to allow for talks.

Since then, there have been no negotiations with the Spanish government, which regards a self-determination referendum held in Catalonia on 1 October as illegal.

The European Union has made clear that should Catalonia split from Spain, the region will cease to be part of the EU.

Madrid is, for the first time, invoking Article 155 of the constitution allowing it to suspend a region’s autonomy and impose direct rule.

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of a number of sexual assaults in London, the BBC understands.