The Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent (Esquerra, ERC) said in a televised statement on Sunday evening that "no judge, no government, no civil servant has the legitimacy to dismiss, and much less pursue, the president of all Catalans", in reference to the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in by German police earlier in the day.

"We are seeing the darkest moments for democracy and fundamental rights in Catalonia and the whole of the Spanish state since 1978", he began, in reference to the beginning of the modern democratic period in Spain, adding that he believed the country was seeing "an unprecedented involution of democracy".

Mr. Puigdemont is no longer the First Minister of Catalonia and had been in self-imposed exile in Belgium until his detention near the Danish border. The Spanish Constitution contains provisions for suspending home rule if the central government deems it necessary and the Spanish Senate approves the petition. Mariano Rajoy used those provisions in October to dismiss the entire regional government in Catalonia.

A Supreme Court investigating judge, Pablo Llarena, announced on Friday that he was sending Mr. Puigdemont to trial to answer charges of rebellion, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment under Spain's 1995 Criminal Code, and the misuse of public funds.

Mr. Torrent said the situation had become "exponentially worse" on Friday when the judge jailed five other former members of Mr. Puigdemont's former regional government, along with the former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, on remand.

He added that news of Mr. Puigdemont's arrest on Sunday had "been received with sadness".

"With these actions, it is not just people who are being persecuted but the will of the entire Catalan people, expressed at the ballot box, is being held hostage."

The Speaker said he would begin work on Monday to build a "common front for fundamental rights and liberties" with political parties, trade unions and civic organisations, "to articulate a joint, unitary response".

"The hour is grave. The exceptionality, evident. And the cause of democracy is above any interest."

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