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The Latest: Catalan secession activists demand EU's support

SANT JOAN DE VILATORRADA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on the trial of Catalan separatists in Spain (all times local): 7:15 p.m. Hundreds of Catalan independence activists have blocked the entrance to the European Commission offices in Barcelona and others started a sit-in inside.

They demanded European Union support for the Catalonia region's efforts to break away from the rest of Spain and chanted, "Self-determination is a right, not a crime" during the Friday demonstration. Earlier in the day, nine politicians and activists who are being tried for their roles in a 2017 secession attempt were transferred from prisons in Catalonia to Madrid prisons. They are scheduled to go on trial in Spain's Supreme Court later this month.

The Catalan independence movement has long tried to win official international support for its ambitions, to no avail. The activists are from the ANC, a group that supports Catalan independence.

2 p.m.

Catalan President Quim Torra has publicly offered his backing to fellow supporters of the region's independence who are due to go on trial for their secession efforts.

Torra spoke in English and Catalan as he read out a statement Friday saying, "No crime has been committed" by the 12 defendants due to appear before the Supreme Court in Madrid later this month.

The secessionists have been trying to recruit support for their ambitions from European Union institutions outside Spain. They insist they were exercising their democratic rights when they held a disallowed independence referendum in October 2017.

Torra says that "the problem for Catalan democrats is also a problem for European democrats."

The high-profile trial is set to start Feb. 12.

1:30 p.m.

A court official says Spain's Supreme Court has set Feb. 12 as the starting date for a high-profile trial of prominent Catalan separatists.

The Supreme Court official, who wasn't authorized to be named in media reports, told The Associated Press the date was decided Friday.

Spanish authorities on Friday transferred nine pro-independence politicians and activists from prisons in Catalonia to the capital, Madrid, ahead of the high-stakes trial for their part in an attempt to secede from Spain.

A total of twelve defendants — including three more who were released on bail — could be imprisoned for decades if they end up convicted of rebellion, the gravest of the charges.

Defense lawyers say they should be acquitted.

- By Aritz Parra

8 a.m.

Authorities are transferring nine politicians and activists from prisons in Catalonia to the country's capital, Madrid, 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 the separatists be moved closer to the Supreme Court located in Madrid by Feb. 2. Early on Friday, convoys of Catalonia's regional police were ferrying the defendants — seven men and two women — from three different prisons to the Brians 2 Penitentiary, 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 Oct. 1 2017.

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