CATALIONIA and Spain are set for another legal confrontation with Madrid ready to challenge the inauguration of Carles Puigdemont as president – if he attempts it by video from his exile in Brussels or through a proxy MP.

Enric Millo, a delegate for the Spanish government in Catalonia, yesterday branded the potential long-distance investiture “nonsense”.

“Whoever tries to twist the legality for a partisan interest will face a government which will do the utmost to avoid it,” said Millo, adding that the Spanish cabinet would “make sure that Parliament regulations and democratic legality are fulfilled and that no one tries to bend the law to do the absurd”.

Puigdemont, who is facing charges of sedition and rebellion, as well as the misuse of public funds over the October 1 referendum and subsequent Catalan declaration of independence, has an arrest warrant hanging over him and fears he will be arrested should he try to enter Catalonia.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s executive said yesterday that the Catalan Parliament’s regulations do not allow a president to be sworn in from a distance.

“This would question the Parliament’s existence itself as a physical body of representation for Catalan citizens,” it said in a report. “The candidate for president is expected to form a government whose members have the obligation to be present in the Parliament when requested, so it is not understandable he is unable to turn up when being sworn in.”

It added that delegating the vote could only be done under “extraordinary situations,” such as maternity or paternity leave, hospitalisation or serious illness.

Spain’s move came as three Catalan independence supporters tried to secure their release from jail for their part in the breakaway bid.

Former Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, a member of the pro-independence National Catalan Assembly civic group, and Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart made their case for release from jail to Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Forn was one of several regional ministers jailed on charges of rebellion after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence on October 27, a move that prompted Rajoy to dissolve the regional parliament and call fresh elections on December 21. Sanchez and Forn were elected on independence party tickets in that ballot.

Sanchez and Cuixart had previously been jailed on sedition charges related to preparations for an October 1 indyref in Catalonia, which the Constitutional Court had declared illegal. Sanchez acknowledged to the judge that the referendum was not legally valid, according to lawyers.

Developments surrounding Catalonia have gripped Spain for months and the tumult is showing no sign of letting up before the newly-elected Catalan parliament’s first session next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Carme Forcadell, a prominent pro-independence MP re-elected last month, said yesterday she will not seek re-election as the parliament’s speaker when the chamber sits next week.

Forcadell, who is also under investigation for rebellion for her involvement in the drive for independence, said it was time for someone else to occupy the post. The role is important because the speaker can decide what is debated and voted on.

She said the person in charge must be free from legal encumbrances: “This facilitates things to be able to defend that you can speak and debate everything, and to be free of pressures and threats.”

Elsewhere, a Spanish academic specialising in constitutional law has attacked the crackdown by Madrid. Javier Pérez Royo – who supported the indyref – told the news website that he was pessimistic about the future of Spanish democracy. He said: “It’s a bleak outlook; it’s nearly impossible to stop the Supreme Court.”