19th October 2020
Catalan leaders in jail
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‘Freedom is either total or it is not’ – jailed Catalan leaders react to being granted ‘low category’ status

The justice department of the Catalan government has agreed to grant the lowest prison category to the nine pro-independence Catalan politicians and activists who were sentenced to 9-13 years by Spain’s Supreme Court on 14 October 2019. They were found guilty of sedition over the 2017 independence referendum – and the verdict caused widespread protests across Catalonia.

The decision to now allow them all the ‘Low Category’ prison status can still be appealed by the Spain’s public prosecutor.

On 2 July the prison authorities where the nine leaders are currently serving their sentences – Lledoners, Puig de les Basses, and Wad Ras prisons in Catalonia – unanimously proposed granting them all the lowest category status. The decision had to be ratified by the Catalan government, however – and on Tuesday it was.

The nine leaders – Oriol Junqueras (former Catalan vice president), Raül Romeva, Carme Forcadell, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Joaquim Forn, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – will now be allowed to leave prison for 48 hours at weekends, effectively serving their sentences from Monday to Friday.

ALSO READ: Catalan Trial verdict: full details of each sentence

Catalan leaders on trial
Former Catalan leaders including (from front row right to left) Oriol Junqueras, Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Carles Mundo, Santi Vila and Meritxel Borras attend their trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid on 12 February 2019. (Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP)

Spain’s prison system is made up of three regimes, High, Medium and Low status, with the option of conditional release.

Inmates are categorised in one of the regimes depending on the seriousness of the offence, the level of intent, and the risk of harming others.

ALSO READ: Nicola Sturgeon on trial verdict: ‘political system needs urgent change’

The ‘High category’ is reserved for prisoners considered a danger to others. ‘Medium category’ is a normal prison life and ‘Low category’ allows for conditional release.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the nine leaders had already been granted leave from prison in accordance with 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 leave was then cancelled during the health crisis.

Earlier report (6 March 2020): All nine jailed Catalan leaders now granted temporary leave 

Catalan prisoners react to news

Reacting to the news, Raül Romeva – previously in charge of foreign affairs for the Catalan government, tweeted: ‘Today I will spend my 875th night in prison. Tomorrow, the 876th. And so on, because the third degree [low category status] is just another way to continue paying a sentence of 12 years in prison and disqualification. Freedom is not the third degree.’

Jordi Turull tweeted: ‘Freedom is either total or it is not.’

Carme Forcadell, former Catalan Parliament speaker, tweeted: ‘Today I will sleep in jail and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the coming week and the other and many others. There is no semi-freedom, freedom is or is not and we, the prisoners, do not have it. The third degree [low category status] is not freedom it is the fulfilment of the sentence.’

ALSO READ: Defence lawyers: ‘This has been a political trial’ 

The 'Jordis'
Jordi Sanchez (right), and Jordi Cuixart, wave as they arrive at the High Court in Madrid on 16 October 2017. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP)

In November 2019, Amnesty International released a report criticising the verdict of the nine Catalan referendum leaders, calling for the immediate release of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the two civic leaders at the time of the October 2017 referendum.

‘The conviction of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart for sedition violates their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and they must be immediately released,’ Amnesty stated in its report.

ALSO READ: UN working group calls for release of four more jailed Catalan politicians

The nine jailed politicians and activists:

Oriol Junqueras – former Catalan vice president, finance minister and leader of the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party.

Junqueras spent 711 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition and misuse of public funds. Prison sentence: 13 years. Disqualification: 13 years.

ALSO READ: Junqueras: ‘I consider myself a political prisoner’

Jordi Turull – former Catalan presidency minister.

Turull spent 602 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition and misuse of public funds. Prison sentence: 12 years. Disqualification: 12 years

Joaquim Forn – former Catalan interior minister.

Forn spent 711 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 10.5 years. Disqualification: 10.5 years.

Raül Romeva – former Catalan foreign action minister.

Romeva spent 602 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition and misuse of public funds. Prison sentence: 12 years. Disqualification: 12 years.

Catalan leaders in jail
From top left to right: Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull. Bottom left to right: Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa and Jordi Sanchez. (Photos by AFP)

Dolors Bassa – former Catalan labour and social affairs minister.

Bassa spent 602 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition and misuse of public funds. Prison sentence: 12 years. Disqualification: 12 years.

Josep Rull – former Catalan territory minister.

Rull spent 602 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 10.5 years. Disqualification: 10.5 years.

Carme Forcadell – former Catalan Parliament speaker.

Forcadell spent 571 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 11.5 years. Disqualification: 11.5 years.

Jordi Sànchez – former Catalan National Assembly (ANC) grassroots leader.

Sànchez spent 728 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 9 years. Disqualification: 9 years.

Jordi Cuixart – Òmnium Cultural grassroots leader.

Cuixart spent 728 days in preventive detention prior to sentencing. Crime: sedition. Prison sentence: 9 years. Disqualification: 9 years

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez: court’s handling of trial ‘exemplary’

Click here for all our previous reports on the Catalan Trial, verdicts and sentencing

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