ANGER was rising in Catalonia last night after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy backtracked over withdrawing the unprecedented direct rule he imposed after last October’s independence referendum.

He claimed to recognise the powers of newly-elected President Quim Torra but refused to approve his choice of ministers, four of whom are facing charges connected with the poll, and refused to publish their nominations in the official gazette.

The Madrid government must end direct rule once the Catalan government is formed and cabinet ministers named, under the terms of the emergency legislation brought in under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.

However, Rajoy has chosen to ignore this detail and said yesterday he hoped Catalonia would soon form a viable government that would obey the law.

Speaking in Galicia, he said: “I hope there will soon be a government that is viable, that obeys the law and that enters into dialogue with us – one that will work to recover institutional and political normality in our country.”

Torra has said he will write to European leaders seeking their help to end the worsening impasse between Barcelona and Madrid.

And in a television interview he defended his ministerial nominations, saying: “They deserve to be ministers. It’s the minimum moral compensation we could provide to figures so prestigious as they are.”

Two of his four nominees – Jordi Turull and Josep Rull – have been held for months without trial in a Madrid jail, while Toni Comín and Lluís Puig are in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

All four were part of deposed president Carles Puigdemont’s government.

The ministers are due to be inaugurated on Wednesday, which should see the lifting of Article 155, the conditions of which Torra said were being “scrupulously” met.

“It seems unimaginable to us that it wouldn’t be lifted and, if the state doesn’t do it, it will be infringing on a decree of the Senate and that would be a considerable constitutional crisis,” he said.

Torra yesterday visited Turrull and Rull in Estremera prison, whom he said had accepted their ministerial responsibilities and expected to be sworn in tomorrow in Barcelona.

He also visited the Catalan parliament’s former speaker, Carme Forcadell, and deputy Dolors Bassa, in another jail.

“I go out to see two extraordinary and brave womenThey tell us they will continue to stand if we endure. They feel hostages of the Spanish justice,” he said.

“I ask the central government and the opposition parties that politics should return to politics.”

Meanwhile, a retired Spanish general added fuel to the fire by demanding armed intervention to avoid the formation of a new government in Catalonia.

Writing on his blog, Ramón Dávila – a grandson of General Fidel Dávila, one of the coup leaders who supported Franco in 1936 – was furious that Torra took the oath of office with no picture of King Felipe on display.

He wrote: “We are about to lose the Fatherland.”

Dávila tried to justify a military intervention by claiming that Torra and Roger Torrent, the parliament speaker, were “espadones [hooligans]” who had “bombed Catalonia”.

Finnish MP Mikko Kärnä hit out at “unionist bullies” who had reportedly made fun of Torra’s eldest daughter, who was born with spina bifida.

Torra had tweeted: “If the persecution is against me, I take it, but I ask that my family be spared. My eldest daughter has spina bifida. She had motor skills development problems and has had to fight hard. It is a red line.”

Kärnä said simply: “Shame on unionist bullies! STOP!"