Six jailed leaders set foot in parliament for first time since 2017
Junqueras, Rull, Turull, Bassa, Romeva and Forn got special permit to testify in investigative committee
Six of the nine leaders in jail for their roles in the 2017 independence referendum set a foot in parliament on Tuesday for the first time since they were ousted and put in precautionary detention in November 2017.
Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva and Joaquim Forn were required to testify in a Catalan parliamentary committee on the enforcement of direct rule from Madrid.
The Catalan justice department allowed their attendance and all six were taken by the Catalan police to the parliament, where they were welcomed with applause and chants of "freedom" by party colleagues.
Amid huge media expectation and with strong police presence outside the chamber, they were welcomed by the Catalan president, Quim Torra, and the speaker, Roger Torrent.
They were taken to a room until 9am, when the committee began with former vice president Oriol Junqueras' testimony.
Junqueras: dialogue despite imprisonments
During his opening statement, Junqueras said that "organizing a referendum is not a crime because it isn't in the penal code."
"Backing independence and the republic is not a crime," he added. "They get confused between justice and vengeance. Vengeance doesn't intimidate us, it doesn't scare us, prison is another step towards freedom."
In the line of his party Esquerra's strategy, Junqueras said that despite his imprisonment, they won't "give up on dialogue."
"Our job is to talk to everyone, with a good tone, with a smile," said the former vice president.
Concerning the application of direct rule, he expressed that it harmed the country's social policies and economy, and it was "an excuse for the imprisonments."
Ciutadans walks away without waiting for an answer
In the round of responses, unionist Ciutandans' leader, Lorena Roldán, told him: "You are not martyrs, although you have come to play the victim, because you were the instigators [of the 2017 independence push]."
"You are not telling the truth about what happened in the darkest days of 2017."
Roldán, who asked Junqueras whether he "regrets" of his acts while in governments, walked away without waiting for Junqueras' response when she finished her statement. "Won't you wait for my response?," Esquerra's leader asked.