MADRID/BARCELONA (Reuters) - Catalonia refused on Tuesday to bow to the Spanish government's demand that it renounce a symbolic declaration of independence, setting it on a political collision course with Madrid later this week.
The Spanish government has threatened to put Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of the economy, under direct central rule if its government does not abandon independence by Thursday.
But Catalonia's government rejected Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's deadline.
"Giving in forms no part of this government's scenarios," Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said. "On Thursday, we won't give anything different than what we gave on Monday."
Spain's biggest political crisis in decades worsened on Monday night when Madrid's High Court jailed the heads of Catalonia's two main separatist groups pending an investigation for alleged sedition.
The Catalan government accused Madrid of taking "political prisoners" and one of the groups has called for peaceful demonstrations around Catalonia on Tuesday, with the biggest expected to begin in Barcelona in the evening.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, in a tweet following the detentions, said: "Sadly, we have political prisoners again." The phrase was an allusion to the military dictatorship under Francisco Franco, when Catalan culture and language were systematically suppressed. It carries an emotional resonance given fascism is still a living memory for many Spaniards.
Justice Minister Rafael Catala hit back saying the jailing of the leaders of the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium was a judicial, not a political, decision.
"We can talk of politicians in prison but not political prisoners," he said. "These are not political prisoners because yesterday's prison ruling was due to a (suspected) crime."
The crisis has deepened divisions at the heart of Spain's young democracy, underlining the complex sense of nationhood in the euro zone's fourth largest economy.