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Jailed independence leaders ask for release during coronavirus crisis

Former Catalan ministers appeal to Spain's Constitutional Court to allow them to remain at home while covid-19 emergency lasts

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30 March 2020 07:52 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

Two jailed Catalan leaders have called on Spain's Constitutional Court to suspend the prison sentences they were given for their part in the 2017 independence bid in Catalonia.

Former vice president Oriol Junqueras and former exterior minister Raül Romeva made their appeal on Friday, asking the high court for an "urgent" resolution to the case.

The independence leaders argue that keeping them in prison during the covid-19 crisis puts them at risk and "seriously affects" their basic rights.

In their appeal, they also argue that given the current state of alarm in Spain imposed due to the health crisis, there is no risk of them fleeing abroad.

Both men were sentenced to prison for sedition and misuse of public funds in October, with Junqueras receiving a 13-year term and Romeva getting 12 years.

Activist leader also makes high court appeal

Another jailed leader, activist Jordi Cuixart, made a similar appeal to the Constitutional Court last week, asking that he be confined to his home as long as the health crisis lasts.

Cuixart argues that as a business owner he is unable to manage the fallout from the crisis from prison, where he is only allowed to make short calls lasting eight minutes.

Cuixart, along with Junqueras and Romeva, had been granted temporary leave from prison during the week. However, none of the leaders have left prison since the crisis started.

PDeCAT party calls for new regime for prisoners

Meanwhile, the PDeCAT party, who three of the jailed leaders belong to, called for the prisoners to be recategorized to a lesser prison regime due to the coronavirus crisis.

Former ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, and Joaquim Forn are serving prison terms under a regime that means they must spend the majority of their sentences behind bars.

Placing the jailed leaders under a more lenient regime would mean they would be allowed to spend time out of prison: "We want them to be at home," said the PDeCAT spokesman.

On Twitter, Turull's wife, Blanca Bragulat, who heads a Catalan civil rights association, demanded the prisoners be allowed to spend the covid-19 confinement at home.

UN high commissioner urges prisoner release

The leaders' bid to be released from prison during the health crisis was given a boost last week in comments made by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Michelle Bachelet urged states to release prisoners to help halt the spread of the virus, especially "older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders."

Asking governments "not to forget those behind bars," Bachelet warned that "the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic."

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  • Jailed Catalan independence leaders Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva enter the Catalan Parliament with other imprisoned leaders for a parliamentary investigation on the application of direct rule (by Gerard Artigas)

  • Jailed Catalan independence leaders Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva enter the Catalan Parliament with other imprisoned leaders for a parliamentary investigation on the application of direct rule (by Gerard Artigas)

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