THOUSANDS of independence supporters pushed past a police cordon yesterday and gathered around the Catalan Parliament building in Barcelona after the swearing in of Carles Puigdemont as state president was postponed.

The parliament’s speaker, Roger Torrent, announced the measure as he waited for Spain’s Constitutional Court to make a decision on Puigdemont’s bid to be reinstated.

Judges had previously set conditions for the only candidate for the presidency – who has been in exile in Brussels since the Catalan declaration of independence in October – that he appear in person and with prior consent from a judge.

READ MORE: Pro-indy Catalan restaurant targeted by Unionists celebrates 25th anniversary

But the court maintained the strict conditions, in effect denying the speaker’s demands to allow Puigdemont’s re-election without legal impediments.

Puigdemont is facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in connection with the referendum and the independence declaration, and would be arrested should he re-enter Spain.

His party, Together for Catalonia (JxCat), announced late yesterday that it would lodge an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the court is not respecting the results of the December 21 election in Catalonia.

However, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) immediately sought to have Puigdemont barred from the European Parliament.

In a letter to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, the PP’s leader in Brussels, Esteban González Pons, said Puigdemont had a “search and capture order” in place. He had also violated the law and “escaped his penalties” by hiding in another country.

Catalan sources in Brussels said Puigdemont was “a free citizen” in Belgium and could move freely “wherever he wants” in the country.

Rajoy tweeted: “A fugitive of justice can not be president of a democratic institution. The rule of law obliges us all to comply with the law.”

Dozens of extra police were deployed outside the parliament building and helicopters hovered overhead in a bid to detect Puigdemont if he tried to turn up surreptitiously.

Border controls have also been tightened in recent days and police have even scoured sewers around the parliament building.

Torrent said: “The Spanish vice-president and the Constitutional Court will not decide who will be the Catalan president. That is up to the democratically elected MPs. I am not going to propose a candidate other than Puigdemont. President Puigdemont has all the right to be elected.

“The Spanish Government and the Constitutional Court aim to violate the rights of millions of Catalans and this we will not accept.”

The Madrid government welcomed the court’s decision. An official said that pressure applied by the government and the country’s top court “have prevented a mockery of our democracy”.

Jailed minister Oriol Junqueras, who was Puigdemont’s deputy in the last parliament, tweeted his thanks to Torrent: “Thanks President @rogertorrent for guaranteeing the defence of the rights of all the democratically elected members. Thank you for your commitment to defending Catalonia, democracy and the recovery of institutions.”

And, as independence supporters converged on parliament, one demonstrator from Girona said: “We voted to be a republic on October 1 and there’s no going back.

“Enough delays, excuses, carrying on. Without disobedience there’s no independence.

“We are the people: we have the power. From the ground up, we’ll build the Republic now, without asking permission.”