Five of the nine Catalan independence leaders who are currently in jail for their role in the October 2017 referendum have now been given permission to leave prison for a number of days each week. It follows Article 100.2 of Spanish prison regulations, applicable to prisoners who fall in the medium category sentencing and who have served a quarter of their sentences. All have to return to prison to sleep each night.
The jailed activists, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, had already been given permission to leave prison for a few days each week to carry out voluntary or paid work. Joaquim Forn, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell have now also received permission.
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Cuixart, president of the Òmnium Cultural civic organisation, and who along with Sànchez is serving nine years for sedition – having been sentenced by Spain’s Supreme Court on 14 October 2019 – actually left prison on Thursday for 72 hours leave, despite opposition from Spain’s prosecutor.
Cuixart’s work and voluntary activities outside prison included an emotive return this week to his own company, a packaging machinery firm that he founded in 2003. He then had to return to prison to sleep.
The prosecutors argue, however, that in the case of a crime such as sedition, the penalty must be seen by society and by the convict ‘as an effective sanction in order to maintain confidence in the rule of law’. They continue to argue that Cuixart has not acknowledged the seriousness of the offence for which he has been convicted, nor shown any remorse. They insist that Cuixart should receive a ‘treatment’ programme ‘in accordance to the offence’.
This week the former Catalan Parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell, was also granted permission by the authorities in Mas d’Enric prison to leave for three days a week. She will be allowed to do charity work and to take care of a family member.
Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament was sentenced to 11 years and six months imprisonment by Spain’s Supreme Court in October 2019 [see full details below].
Joaquim Forn and Dolors Bassa have also been granted permission by the authorities to leave their respective prisons for a number of days each week. Forn can leave Lledoners prison for five days a week, and Bassa can leave Puig de les Basses prison for three days a week.
Forn will be allowed to leave for 12.5 hours each day to work, whilst Bassa will be able to be out for eight hours each day to care for an elderly family member.
Details of each of the five leaders allowed out of prison on leave:
Jordi Sànchez is the former Catalan National Assembly (ANC) grassroots leader. He led a protest outside the Catalan economy department on 20 September 2017, as a response to Spanish police raids against the referendum organisation. No-one was injured, but the protest was considered a ‘tumultuous’ one, for which Sànchez was charged with sedition, and then rebellion. The grassroots leader maintains that all pro-independence demonstrations over that period were peaceful.
Sànchez, who has been in prison since 16 October 2017, stepped down as ANC leader and was elected as Catalan MP for Carles Puigdemont’s party. Unsuccessful attempts were made to allow him to be sworn in as Catalan president following the December 2017 election, and he was also suspended as MP. Following the April 2019 Spanish elections vote, was allowed to take up his seat in the Spanish Congress but was then suspended days later.
Sànchez spent 728 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing on 14 October 2019. He was found guilty of sedition and is currently serving 9 years in jail.
Jordi Cuixart is the Òmnium Cultural grassroots leader. He is the only jailed Catalan leader who has never held a public political post. During the 2017 referendum, as president of Òmnium – another large pro-independence organisation – he faced the same charges as Jordi Sànchez. Both were the first to be sent to precautionary jail in October 2017.
Unlike Sànchez, however, he did not make the move to institutional politics in the December 2017 Catalan election and remained at the head of Òmnium. This organisation has dramatically increased its membership to 170,000.
Cuixart spent 728 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. He was found guilty of sedition on 14 October 2019 and is also currently serving 9 years in jail.
Dolors Bassa was the Catalan labour and social affairs minister when the 1 October 2017 independence referendum took place. She was released on bail after spending a month in prison from November to December 2017. A member of ERC, she resigned from parliament before appearing before the Supreme Court in March 2018, but was imprisoned nonetheless.
Bassa spent 602 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition and misuse of public funds. Prison sentence: 12 years. Disqualification: 12 years.
Former Catalan Parliament speaker, Forcadell is one of the independence movement’s key players since it gained further momentum in 2012. During the early years, she was the leader of a large grassroots pro-independence organisation, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and from 2015 was the speaker of the Catalan Parliament.
The Spanish Constitutional Court sent her several warnings and the Spanish prosecutor filed criminal lawsuits against her whilst in office for facilitating parliamentary debates and votes on independence. Forcadell, however, has repeatedly stated that she was simply respecting freedom of speech and MPs’ rights. Forcadell spent a month in prison before being sent to prison again in March 2018.
Forcadell spent 571 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 11.5 years. Disqualification: 11.5 years
Former Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn was in charge of Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police force when the independence referendum took place. Accused of not doing enough to stop the vote, Forn has denied the existence of any ‘political interference’ with the Mossos.
Along with Junqueras, Forn is the only minister to remain behind bars consistently since 2 November 2017. Forn also ran for mayor of Barcelona as the JxCat candidate in the 26 May 2019 local election and was allowed to leave prison two days in June to register as one of the city councillors.
Forn spent 711 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 10.5 years. Disqualification: 10.5 years
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