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Jailed leaders to start journey back to Catalan prisons

Nine Catalan pro-independence leaders will be transferred back to Catalan prisons by Wednesday after sitting in the dock for four months for the Catalan trial at Spain’s Supreme Court, in Madrid.

The seven men – Jordi Cuixart, Joaquim Forn, Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull – will commence a 3-day transfer from Madrid’s Soto del Real prison on Monday afternoon, with two stops on the way to Catalonia. The two women, Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa, will leave Madrid’s Alcalá Meco on Wednesday and arrive in Catalonia the same day.

In one of Spain’s most crucial trials in decades, some of Catalonia’s most influential politicians and activists defended themselves from accusations of violent rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds for their role in the 2017 independence bid.

A Guardia Civil bus carrying the Catalan pro-independence leaders, leaves Brians II jail in Sant Esteve Sesrovires, near Barcelona, on 1 February 2019 as pro-independence supporters hold banners reading “Self-determination is a right, not a crime.” (Lluis Gene / AFP)

After 52 sessions, the cross-examination of 12 defendants, and 422 witnesses, Supreme Court judges are not expected to issue a final verdict until September.

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With some pro-independence leaders having spent over 20 months in preemptive imprisonment, judges have repeatedly refused to let them free, but accepted transferring them from Madrid to Catalan prisons once they’re no longer required to attend trial hearings.

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The nine pro-independence leaders had originally left prisons in Catalonia on 1 February for Madrid, in time for the trial that officially started on 12 February.

The Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, originally moved them all to one prison, Brians II, where the Spanish Guardia Civil then took take over to transfer them all in one vehicle to two Madrid centres. At the time of their transfer, hundreds of supporters outside the prisons cheered them off, holding banners stating ‘Self-determination is a right, not a crime’.

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