Of the nine Catalan pro-independence politicians and activists who were jailed for between 9-13 years by Spain’s Supreme Court on 14 October 2019, seven have had their ‘Low Category’ prison status overturned this week, after a judge revoked their privileges following a request by Spain’s public prosecutor.
The nine politicians and activists had been found guilty of sedition in 2019, following the high-profile trial over the October 2017 independence referendum – with the verdict causing widespread protests across Catalonia.
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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 was then ratified by the Catalan government, on 14 July. The decision to grant them the low status, however, was still subject to a possible appeal by Spain’s public prosecutor – and which swiftly followed.
Spain’s prison system is made up of three regimes: High, Medium and Low Category status. 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. 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.
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Prior to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) 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.
The ‘Low Category’ status granted to the nine jailed independence leaders around two weeks ago, had allowed them to leave their prison cells on the weekends and during weekdays, returning to sleep there Monday-Friday.
But according to Spain’s public prosecutor, giving them this category created ‘a sense of impunity’.
Earlier report (6 March 2020): All nine jailed Catalan leaders now granted temporary leave
Five of the jailed Catalan leaders – Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – returned to Lledoners jail on Tuesday evening, after a judge suspended their ‘Low Category’ status.
Minutes before re-entering prison the five men spoke on a small stage that the Òmnium Cultural civic organisation had put up. The men rallied against the Spanish authorities for a lack of dialogue and said they would continue to stand up for their freedoms.
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Outside Lledoners prison, the men were also met by the Catalan government’s vice-president Pere Aragonès, the president of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, both of the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party. Many supporters from the pro-independence party, Junts per Catalunya (JxCAT), were among hundreds of others in attendance.
The Catalan president Quim Torra later called the revoking of the men’s privileges an act of ‘vengeance’ and warned the Spanish government, which he views as being behind the move, to ‘demonstrate a desire to end hostilities against the independence movement’ for dialogue to be able to take place.
ALSO READ (27 Feb): Talks commence between Spanish and Catalan governments
Pablo Iglesias, Spain’s second deputy prime minister and leader of the Spanish government’s coalition partner, the left-wing Podemos group, tweeted on Tuesday night that he thought the decision was ‘bad news’ for ‘dialogue’ between the Catalan and Spanish governments – and said he suspected many citizens may now ‘have the feeling that justice is not the same for everyone’.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, however, said that the criticism his government had received following the measure was ‘misplaced’. He said, ‘The Spanish government does not impose or remove sentences, it is the courts that do that.’
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On Thursday afternoon, a judge also accepted the request from prosecutors to revoke the privileges of Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, which meant that they also returned to the Lledoners prison.
The seven men who have returned to prison will have to be confined to their cells for 14 days as a preventative measure for Covid-19.
However, a court rejected suspending the ‘Low Category’ status for jailed independence leaders Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa, as had also been requested by Spain’s public prosecutor.
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According to the court overlooking the cases of Bassa and Forcadell who keep their partial freedom, the privileges cannot be suspended as a precautionary measure until they are appealed in Spain’s Supreme Court, where the nine imprisoned independence politicians and activists were tried and sentenced last October.
It is understood that the prison authorities will have to study each of their situations on a case by case basis before conceding any further privileges.
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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.
- 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
Click here for all our previous reports on the Catalan Trial, verdicts and sentencing