SPAIN's constitutional court has ordered a temporary halt to a special session of Catalonia's parliament next week where regional officials are expected to vote on breaking away from Spain.

The opposition Socialist bloc in the regional parliament, where pro-independence parties have a narrow majority of seats, had called for Monday's session to be blocked.

Lawyers for the regional parliament had also warned that the session would be illegal because it discusses results of a referendum over the weekend that had been previously suspended by the constitutional court.

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Sunday's independence referendum has sparked a major political crisis in Spain.

Spain's prime minister, meanwhile, urged the pro-indy leader of the regional Catalan government to cancel plans for declaring independence to avoid "greater evils".

In an interview with Spain's EFE news agency, Mariano Rajoy said the solution in Catalonia "is the prompt return to legality and the affirmation, as early as possible, that there will be no unilateral declaration of independence, because that way greater evils will be avoided".

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has indicated the region will formally declare independence.

Previously, Mireia Boya, from the pro-indy Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, said a declaration of independence would follow a parliamentary session to evaluate the results of the referendum.

“We know that there may be disbarments, arrests ... but we are prepared, and in no case will it be stopped,” she said.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont earlier told the BBC: “This will probably finish once we get all the votes in from abroad at the end of the week and therefore we shall probably act over the weekend or early next week.”

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Puigdemont said he already felt like “a president of a free country where millions of people have made an important decision”.

He accused the Madrid government of authoritarianism and said its refusal to negotiate had left Catalonia with “no other way” than to declare independence.

“The Spanish government is letting political opponents be arrested, it is influencing media and blocking internet sites. We are under observation day and night,” Puigdemont said. “What is that other than an authoritarian state?”

The conservative central government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has already said it will respond with “all necessary measures” to counter any attempts by Catalonia to break away.

There were reports yesterday that Madrid was sending the army into Catalonia, stoking fears Rajoy could even declare a state of emergency and impose martial law.

In a special national address on Tuesday night, Spain’s King Felipe VI came out strongly, accusing the Catalan authorities of putting themselves “completely on the sidelines of the law and democracy”.

“With their irresponsible conduct, they can even put at risk the economic and social stability of Cat- alonia and the whole of Spain.”

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has called on both sides to talk. “Neither a unilateral declaration of independence nor article 155. More than ever we need dialogue and bridges,” she tweeted.

Catalonia said some 2.3 million people voted in the referendum, with 90 per cent voting for independence.

During and after the vote on Sunday some 900 people were treated in hospital, after a violent response from police officers with Spain’s national Guardia Civil, who were ordered to prevent the vote happening.

Amnesty International has condemned Madrid for allowing the national guard to use “excessive and disproportionate force against demonstrators who were passively resisting in the streets and at the entrances to polling stations”.

Batons and rubber bullets were used to stop people voting.

Catalans came out on to the streets on Tuesday to condemn the police action, shutting down traffic, public transport and businesses.

They surrounded hotels where officers from the Guardia Civil have been stationed, demanding their urgent departure.

Around 40,000 members of the Guardia Civil have been deployed in Catalonia over the last two weeks.

In the tourist town of Calella, 36 miles north-east of Barcelona, officers staying in the Hotel Vila checked out early after local people stood outside the hotel chanting: “Out occupation forces!”

A video of the protest also shows some people shouting “fascists!” and “You’re not welcome”.

According to Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia, the mayor of the coastal town, Montserrat Candini, told a group of 500 protesters on Sunday evening “We don’t want the hotels in Calella to be a barracks.”

The police union said it believed its officers were in danger from Cata- lonian separatists, comparing them to ETA who violently agitated for independence in the Basque region.

Spanish police officials have complained that the 17,000 officers of Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s autonomous police force, did not follow orders from Madrid, but instead, alongside Catalan firefighters confronted the national police, defending voters.

Spain’s national court has said it will investigate Catalan regional police chief Josep Lluis for sedition. He has been summoned to appear tomorrow.

A police officer from a Barcelona neighbourhood and the leaders of two pro-independence grassroots organisations are also being investigated.

Trapero, who was the policeman in charge of the response to the terrorist attacks in Barcelona in August, could face 15 years in jail if found guilty.