Catalan leader stripped of lawmaker rights, protesters scuffle with police

A person walks near a garbage container set on fire during a protest in Barcelona

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Catalonia's parliament stripped the head of the region's pro-independence government of his rights as a regional lawmaker on Monday, angering supporters who scuffled with police outside the assembly.

The parliament's speaker, Roger Torrent, said the assembly in Barcelona had to comply with a Spanish court ruling against regional leader Quim Torra to ensure future votes are not deemed invalid, but said he would seek ways to overturn the decision.

Torra will now be unable to vote in parliament but will remain head of the Catalan government, despite opposition parties' demands that he be removed from the post, Torrent said.

Catalonia unilaterally declared independence in 2017 following a referendum, prompting the Spanish government to impose direct rule from Madrid and call a new election, in which pro-independence parties won a majority in parliament.

Torra was later handed an 18-month ban from public office for refusing to remove symbols supporting jailed Catalan activists from government buildings during an electoral campaign, and the electoral board stripped Torra of his seat in the Catalan parliament. That decision was upheld by Spain's Supreme Court last week.

There was no word of any arrests of injuries in the scuffles that broke out with police on Monday when several hundred people, some of them waving Catalan flags, protested against the decision to strip Torra of his rights as a lawmaker.

Spain's Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, is due to attend a meeting in Barcelona next week to set the agenda for negotiations to address Catalonia's independence drive.

Separatist left-wing party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) was instrumental in facilitating Sanchez's confirmation as premier this month after a long political stalemate.

Torra's center-right Junts per Catalunya and ERC, who have a coalition government in the region, have been at odds over the issue of whether to remove Torra from power, raising the prospect of a snap regional election that would increase political uncertainty in Spain.



(Reporting by Joan Faus, writing by Joan Faus, Emma Pinedo and Ashifa Kassam, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Timothy Heritage)