CATALAN President Quim Torra was yesterday hit with fines of €8500 (£7750) for refusing to remove yellow bows from public buildings and speaking in support of the jailed politicians, public figures and political exiles during campaigning in the April general election.

The bows have become symbols of support for the independence activists who have stood trial for their part in the 2017 independence referendum and who have been in so-called “preventative detention” for approaching two years.

Spain’s Central Electoral Board (JEC) levied the fines for Torra’s alleged violation of public authority neutrality by spreading messages in favour of exiled former president Carles Puigdemont, Clara Ponsati and Toni Comin, as well as those in detention.

Torra has already said he does not intend to pay the fines, claiming the JEC did not have the competence to rule on the issue. He also justified the messages as part of the “inauguration” of St Jordi’s Day, and denied they had “electoral purposes”.

The head of the Catalan Government described the JEC as a “censoring and repressive” organisation, and said that he was acting in defence of “freedom of expression”.

“Whenever freedom of expression is punished, we will exercise it again,” he said.

It is thought likely the Catalan Government will appeal against the three fines.

Meanwhile, Catalonia’s High Court (TSJC) has temporarily refused a request by the Spanish Government to close Catalan Government delegation offices in London, Berlin and Geneva.

Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed earlier this month that the delegations were part of “an unconstitutional secessionist project”, with Foreign Minister Josep Borrell saying they were “harmful to Spain’s interests”.

However, the TSJC refused the request until it makes a final ruling and reminded the Spanish Government it had not requested any similar measure last September, when the reopening of other Catalan delegations started following the lifting of direct rule.

Earlier this month, The National told how SNP MPs Ronnie Cowan, Douglas Chapman and Joanna Cherry were among parliamentarians with Catalan sympathies whose activities had been logged by Spanish spies.

They also recorded the daily activities of staff at the Catalan delegations and accused German and Swiss delegates of “spreading the pro-independence message”.

Elsewhere, Torra’s vice-president has said a new election cannot be ruled out once the verdicts in the trial, known as “the process” are delivered.

Pere Aragones, a leading figure in the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) made his remarks during an interview on Catalonia Radio, in which he also refused to rule himself out as his party’s lead candidate for the Catalan presidency if the verdict or sentence rules out Oriol Junqueras, one of those in prison.

“Oriol Junqueras is our candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat and we will not move forward any debate because it would be to do the dirty work and before the repression of the state,” said Aragones. “Therefore, we strengthen ourselves as an organisation … step forward as a party, clarify roles ... and from there all the scenarios are open.”