Spain’s public prosecutor requests suspension of prison leave for independence leaders

Nine Catalan politicians and activists were allowed to participate in election campaigning while serving sentence for sedition

Seven pro-independence leaders walking out of the Lledoners prison (by Mar Martí)
Seven pro-independence leaders walking out of the Lledoners prison (by Mar Martí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 15, 2021 01:49 PM

Spain’s public prosecutor has requested the suspension of prison privileges for nine pro-independence leaders in Catalonia, which allow for daytime and weekend leaves while serving their sentences for sedition.

The leaders of the 2017 push to separate from Spain were granted the low category status as inmates only two weeks ago, coinciding with the first day of campaigning for the Catalan election, and they were allowed to take part in political rallies. A day after the election was held on February 14, prosecutors requested their privileges be removed. 

Should Spain’s Supreme Court accept the prosecutor’s request, it would be the second time in less than three months that the nine leaders have been stripped of their prison privileges shortly after receiving them.

With prison terms ranging from 9 to 13 years for the crime of sedition, the nine politicians and activists were sentenced for holding a referendum in defiance of Spanish authorities and attempting to create an independent republic in the fall of 2017.

The most prominent politician incarcerated is Oriol Junqueras, the former vice president of Catalonia. He’s also the leader of Esquerra Republicana, the pro-independence party that won the most seats in the election tied with the Socialist party at 33, and which is likely to lead the next Catalan government.

This election the Socialists were the most-voted party. The combined pro-independence forces, although, got more than 50% of votes, a greatly awaited milestone, which ensures that they will remain in control of Catalonia’s legislative and executive branches.

The acting Justice minister of the Catalan government, Ester Capella, expressed her distrust at the timing of the public prosecutor’s request. "The day after the election is a time for dialogue and political agreements. Every time we hold a vote, the depths of the Spanish state cracks down with more force," she said regarding the independence movement.

In the petition, the prosecutor argues that prison privileges are "incompatible" with the "reeducation" of jailed leaders, as they "still believe that what they did is not a crime" and the results of their "treatment" seem "insufficient."         

In prison since October 2017, the activist turned politician Jordi Sànchez insisted on the need for an amnesty for all independence supporters. Sànchez, who leads the JxCat party alongside exiled ex-president Carles Puigdemont, dismissed the Socialist party’s stance of non-interference with the public prosecutor’s work as "not very credible", given that they are in power in the Spanish government and therefore appoint the head attorney.