ANGER was rising in Catalonia last night after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy backtracked on withdrawing direct rule from Madrid.

Rajoy claimed to recognise the powers of newly-elected Catalan president Quim Torra but refused to approve his choice of ministers, four of whom are facing charges connected to last October’s independence referendum and refused to publish their nominations in the official gazette.

The Spanish government imposed direct rule after last year’s vote but must remove it once a 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. 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. He defended his ministerial nominations in a television interview, 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 Comin and Lluis 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 tomorrow. Torra said the conditions of Article 155 were being “scrupulously” met.

He said: “It seems unimaginable to us that it wouldn’t be lifted. 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.”