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Catalan separatists transferred to Madrid as key trial nears

Protesters with Catalan flags take part in a rally in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Catalonia's parliament on Friday will resume debating its response to the Spanish government's plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence.(AP Photo/ Emilio Morenatti)

Spanish authorities were transferring nine politicians and activists from prisons in Catalonia to the country's capital, Madrid, on Friday, ahead of a high-stakes trial for their role in an attempt to break Spain's territorial unity.

There is no date set for the first hearing, but Judge Manuel Marchena ordered that the separatists be moved closer to the Supreme Court in Madrid by February 2.

Early Friday, convoys of Catalonia's regional police were ferrying the defendants, seven men and two women, from three different prisons to the Brians 2 prison, where Spain's Civil Guard will then transfer them to Madrid.

Three more defendants in the case were released on bail.

The separatists face up to 25 years in prison for pushing ahead with a banned referendum on Catalonia's secession from Spain on October 1 2017.