‘I’m a political prisoner,’ says MP
Turull urges Spanish judge to do “justice and no politics”
Jordi Turull, a jailed pro-independence leader who tried to be appointed as Catalan president a month ago, has described himself as a political prisoner before the Spanish judge that sent him to prison, Pablo Llarena. In a tense hearing, Turull urged Llarena to focus on justice instead of politics.
Turull, a deposed minister, appeared in the Spanish Supreme Court on Wednesday morning along with two other colleagues who are also in jail, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell. Just like three ministers who were interviewed the day before, they also opted for a more confrontational approach than in previous occasions. They criticized the prosecution of pro-independence leaders and put the independence of the Spanish judiciary into question.
There are currently nine pro-independence leaders jailed in Madrid. Seven Catalan officials traveled to other European countries to seek refuge from the Spanish judiciary, including deposed president Carles Puigdemont.
“I’m not sure whether I was a political prisoner last November or not, but now I have no doubts"
Jordi Turull · Deposed Catalan minister
“I’m not sure whether I was a political prisoner last November or not, but now I have no doubts,” said Turull, referring to the first time he was temporarily sent to pre-trial jail. According to Turull, the difference now is that Llarena decided to hold him behind bars because he “did not guarantee a correct return to self-rule,” following his attempt to be sworn in as president.
The Spanish government took over Catalonia’s self-rule last October and dismissed president Puigdemont and all his ministers, including Turull. After winning a subsequent election, pro-independence parties have put forward three different candidates to be appointed as head of government—all of them have been blocked by Spanish courts. “Do not attempt to decide who shall be president,” said Turull.
The deposed minister criticized the judge for referring to his “psychological inner sphere” as proof of the risk of repeated offence and therefore as a reason for keeping him in custody. Sarcastically, Turull urged Llarena to show him the forensic report in which he based his criteria.
Forcadell and Bassa give up seat
Turull was elected as a member of the Catalan parliament in an election last December; so were Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the chamber, and Dolors Bassa, a deposed minister. Unlike Turull, they gave up their seats the day before they were summoned to appear in court a month ago, but Llarena sent them to jail anyway over concerns of repeated offence.
Bassa, the deposed education minister, is accused of facilitating the use of public schools as polling stations in the independence referendum last October. She faces criminal charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds. If found guilty, she could serve more than 30 years in prison.
Llarena accuses Forcadell of having a “core role” in the independence bid since its very beginning, when she was a grassroots activist leading the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). Forcadell was later appointed as parliament speaker by pro-independence parties, and allowed MPs to vote on referendum laws and a subsequent declaration of independence last October.
Forcadell told Llarena that her imprisonment in “unjust,” and stressed that she always respected the rules as the speaker of the Catalan parliament. She minimized her role as a key player in the independence bid, alleging that she held no real power and saying that her function was to formalize petitions by MPs.