DEPOSED Catalan vice-president and leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) Oriol Junqueras has said that Spain’s central government will not let Carles Puigdemont become president again.

And Junqueras – who has been in prison for more than 100 days without trial for his part in the October independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence – did not rule himself out as a presidential candidate.

In written answers to a Spanish TV station, he said: “Spain would never allow for Puigdemont’s presidency to be effective, this is the problem. As far as I know, I have not lost my rights, so I’m sure that I’m a valid candidate, but this is not for me to decide.

“The priority is to form a government, I have always been ready for any sacrifice needed for a common benefit.”

Pro-independence parties want Puigdemont – who leads Together for Catalonia (JxCat) – reinstated, but the government of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is challenging his bid, and the constitutional court (TC) has yet to decide on its legality.

Madrid has said that the establishment of a new Catalan executive would lead to the end of direct rule, a measure imposed by Rajoy under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution in response to the independence declaration.

Junqueras appears to have little hope of being released from detention any time soon, but acknowledged that the pro-indy leaders were aware of the consequences of going ahead with a referendum and declaring independence.

“All of us accepted taking part in an election held under this measure, and no-one remained in the Catalan government after being removed,” he said.

Roger Torrent, speaker of the Catalan parliament, has delayed setting a new date for the presidential investiture debate before the TC rules on Puigdemont, despite being urged by the Socialist Party (PSC) to end the “political paralysis” in Catalonia.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Rajoy government has told Spanish public radio that they would not allow Puigdemont to be sworn in as president, even if its was a “symbolic” gesture.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo said: “Symbolic investitures do not exist, it might aim to provide someone who is accused of serious offences and has escaped justice with a salary ... there must be no consideration for him [Puigdemont].”

He warned that should JxCat try to amend the Catalan parliament’s presidency bill to allow Puigdemont to be sworn in, the Spanish government would treat it as illegal and would appeal to the TC.

“It would be a mistake to pass it,” he said.

Méndez de Vigo said suspension of Catalonia’s devolved powers would continue for as long as was necessary and added: “Article 155 has brought stability to Catalonia and respect for the constitutional and autonomous order. Unless there is a Catalan government that acts within the law and the constitutional order, Article 155 will continue being applied.”

The Spanish government’s delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said: “The sooner it ends the better,” while confirming that Madrid would ensure what was done in Catalonia complied with the law.

“If Puigdemont does not fulfil the legal requirements to be sworn in, he will not be allowed to be the next president.”

However, Puigdemont was defiant in a social media post from Brussels, with a warning to his political opponents: “Proud jailers of democracy, guarantors of legal and media persecution, verbal and police violence. Spokesmen of feudal immobilism ... What fear you have for free citizens! And in spite of everything you do you will end up peacefully passing over.”

One of the legal team taking the case of Catalan political prisoners to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has said she is confident the UN will support their argument.

In an interview with Catalan daily El Nacional, French lawyer Rachel Lindon, a specialist in human rights, accused the Spanish government of “using dictatorial methods” and her clients – Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart – should be freed immediately.

“We are optimistic because, after studying the documentation, we are convinced that the imprisonment of the Catalan political prisoners is a violation of international legality,” she said.

“Spanish justice, in a regrettable display of partiality, has put four people in prison for the simple fact of peacefully defending a different political proposal.

“We are sure that what we are looking at is a case of arbitrary arrest, whose only aim is to repress the independence movement, and which damages fundamental rights.”