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Friday November 24th, 2017 4:04AM

The Latest: Catalan ex-officials in Brussels issue letter

By The Associated Press
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MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Catalonia (all times local):

11:10 a.m.

The ousted Catalan officials fighting extradition to Spain from Belgium have issued a letter calling for support for pro-secession parties in upcoming regional elections.

Catalonia's deposed president and four other ex-officials signed the letter, which he posted on Twitter.

Carles Puigdemont said "it's time to drive away from (Catalan) institutions those who want to own them with a coup d'etat."

He was referring to the unprecedented measures taken by Spain's central authorities to crack down on the independence bid.

Spain removed Puigdemont's Cabinet last month, and Spanish judges are investigating them for rebellion. Central authorities also dissolved the regional parliament and called an early election for Dec. 21 that is shaping into a close race between separatist and pro-union political forces.

Puigdemont is likely to run as the candidate for his center-right PDeCAT party.

___

9:40 a.m.

Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and five other lawmakers have arrived to testify before a Supreme Court judge in an inquiry about steps taken to declare independence from Spain.

The six members of the regional parliament's governing body could face decades in prison if charged and then found guilty of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.

Around 100 supporters, some who had traveled overnight from the northeastern Catalonia region, gathered outside of the Supreme Court building in central Madrid Thursday to show support for the lawmakers.

They braved the November cold and chanted "You are not alone" as the lawmakers and lawyers entered the court.

A handful of anti-independence protesters were kept at bay meters away by police agents. They were carrying Spanish flags and shouted "You don't fool us, Catalonia is Spain."

___

8:30 a.m.

Six Catalan lawmakers are testifying Thursday before a Spanish judge over claims that they ignored Constitutional Court orders and allowed an independence vote in Catalonia's regional parliament.

The parliament's speaker, Carme Forcadell, and five other members of the parliament's governing body face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, punishable by decades in jail.

A Supreme Court judge is set to decide after questioning them if any preventive measures — including possible jail — are to be applied while the investigation continues.

Central authorities took the unprecedented step of seizing control of the wealthy region shortly after the Oct. 27 independence declaration, the first time in four decades of democratic rule that one of Spain's 17 regions has temporarily lost its self-government.

Spain removed the regional government, dissolved the parliament and called a new regional election for Dec. 21.

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