SPAIN’s socialist-led government has allocated €545,000 (£488,980) of public money for a Belgian law firm to represent Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, who has been pursuing the cases against pro-independence leaders in Catalonia.

Sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four former ministers – in exile in Belgium – have launched a civil action accusing Llarena of violating their right to a presumption of innocence over last October’s independence bid.

READ MORE: Scottish Tories are furious about the First Minister's Catalonia visit

Their lawsuit states that Spain is “next to Kazakhstan among delinquent states that refuse to comply with the principles that govern universal fundamental rights”.

Llarena will appear in court in Belgium on September 4 and should Puigdemont win he will demand a symbolic payment of €1 (£0.89).

Spanish President Pedro Sánchez has tried to justify spending public money on Llarena’s case, and said defending the judge is a defence of the Spanish judiciary.

READ MORE: Professor: Court ruling is independence boost for Scotland and Catalonia

He said: “It’s not a private matter but one of state. The state must defend the jurisdictional sovereignty of Spain when it is questioned.”

The issue of the interpretation of remarks attributed to Llarena has provoked controversy about the case.

The evidence had been translated into French for presentation to a Belgian court and make it appear that Llarena had presumed the guilt of Catalan leaders who were under investigation.

However, Gonzalo Boye, lawyer for the exiled politicians, said if it was a translation error, the court would be informed.

He added that “no one said anything” when Spanish authorities sent incomplete translations to Germany when they tried to extradite Puigdemont.