MADRID — The Spanish government dismissed Friday the latest efforts by Catalan separatists to advance their independence bid, saying a planned Catalan government in exile would have no legal authority.

The government also said Jordi Sanchez, a prominent secessionist proposed as Catalonia’s new president, can’t take office because he’s in jail in Madrid awaiting possible trial on charges of sedition and rebellion for his part in recent Catalan attempts to break away from Spain.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday of Sanchez possibly taking power that authorities “won’t allow it.”

Justice Minister Rafael Catala was more circumspect, however. He noted a president would have to take power in person, though he added it would be up to a judge whether to let Sanchez go to the Catalan parliament.

Catalonia’s fugitive ex-leader Carles Puigdemont said late Thursday in a video message from Belgium, where he fled to escape arrest in Spain, that he supported Sanchez for president.

He also said separatists plan to create a kind of Catalan shadow government in exile, called the Council of the Republic, in Belgium.

Mendez de Vigo said such a body would have no power because it has no constitutional basis.

In another twist in the ongoing battle between Madrid’s central authorities and separatist parties and civic groups in Barcelona, the wealthy northeastern Catalonia region’s capital, Puigdemont is taking his fight to the international stage.

His lawyer in Belgium, Ben Emmerson, said Friday legal action has been launched at the United Nations, claiming Spain has violated human, civil and political rights in its crackdown in Catalonia and subsequent legal pursuit of regional leaders.

Emmerson told reporters in Brussels that the Spanish state is trying to “squeeze the life out of the Catalan independence movement.”

He said Puigdemont’s legal team plans to take new legal action each month until Spain agrees to talks on Catalan independence. He didn’t say what that action might be.


Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.