Hundreds at Catalan court over officials detained in independence dispute

Hundreds of pro-independence supporters in Catalonia are protesting outside a court to demand the release of regional officials arrested in a crackdown by Spanish authorities over a planned secession referendum.

The protest in the north-eastern Catalan town of Hospitalet de Llobregat is an extension of another started on Thursday outside the Catalan judiciary headquarters in nearby Barcelona that attracted thousands.

A pro-independence group said about 2,500 supporters were at the protest in Hospitalet.

Many of the demonstrators in Barcelona slept overnight near the judiciary building in tents or hammocks strung up between lampposts.

The Catalan National Assembly civic group has called for the protests to continue until the near dozen officials detained on Wednesday are released.

Spain's central government says the planned October 1 referendum is illegal.

The Interior Ministry said it is deploying police reinforcements to Catalonia to maintain order and take action if the referendum should take place.

A ministry statement said agents will provide backing for the Catalan regional police who are also under orders to prevent the referendum from taking place.

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