Jailed Catalan leaders recover day-release privileges ahead of election campaign

Politicians and activists sentenced for pushing to separate from Spain were stripped of a ‘semi-freedom’ status two months ago

From left to right, jailed pro-independence leaders Quim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras, and Raül Romeva (by Estefania Escolà)
From left to right, jailed pro-independence leaders Quim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras, and Raül Romeva (by Estefania Escolà) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 28, 2021 12:00 PM

Catalonia’s jailed independence leaders recovered penitentiary privileges, which allow weekday and weekend leaves on Thursday, thus allowing them to take part in the campaign ahead of the February 14 election.

Sentenced for their role in the 2017 push to separate from Spain, eight politicians and activists have been granted the low category 'semi-freedom' status by the Catalan government. 

This comes nearly two months after the Supreme Court stripped them of such status, raising the possibility of having their privileges revoked again.

A ninth pro-independence leader, former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, is expected to receive the same penitentiary privileges in the coming days. She is currently in quarantine in the Wad-Ras prison following a coronavirus outbreak.

The eight leaders are expected to leave prison on Friday morning, coinciding with the first day of campaigning, and insuring that Catalonia’s two ruling pro-independence parties can count on some of their most prominent members for the election period—or at least part of it, since a legal challenge from Spain's public prosecutor is likely.

While the pro-independence leaders have been barred from holding public office and can’t run in the parliamentary elections, they remain some of the most charismatic and respected figures in their respective parties. Such an example is the leader of Esquerra Republicana and former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras.

Junts per Catalunya, the pro-independence party led by former president Carles Puigdemont, exiled in Belgium, will also have some of its most prominent members attend election rallies, like the activist turned politician Jordi Sànchez.

Most leaders have completed a quarter of their sentence

The ‘semi-freedom’ status is the most lenient category for inmates, requiring them to sleep in jail from Monday to Thursday, but allowing them to leave the penitentiary center to go to work during the day and spend weekends at home.

With prison sentences ranging from 9 to 13 years, the majority of jailed Catalan leaders have already spent at least three years behind bars, and all will have completed a quarter of their sentences within the next two weeks.