‘If the price of freedom is prison, we have to accept it’ says jailed vice president

ERC party’s candidate for president shares his thoughts on the upcoming election In an interview with the Catalan News Agency


The Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, before appearing on court (by Rafa Garrido)
The Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, before appearing on court (by Rafa Garrido) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 14, 2017 04:19 PM

The dismissed vice president and the ERC party’s main candidate in the December 21 Catalan election, Oriol Junqueras, says his time locked up in prison is worth it if it means freedom for Catalonia. “If the price of freedom is imprisonment, then we have to accept it, however painful it might be,” he says in a written interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN) from the Estremera prison, where he is in provisional detention facing charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

On his continued imprisonment, which the court partly justifies with the argument that he shares responsibility for an “outbreak of violence” by independence supporters, Junqueras says “the only violence we have seen were the baton charges on October 1 and the beatings by far right extremists on the streets of Catalonia.” Junqueras appealed to the Supreme Court to be allowed out of prison to take part in the election campaign, arguing that keeping him behind bars “is an attack against the spirit of democracy.”

“The only way is to vote”

That appeal was not granted and Junqueras now finds himself in the difficult position of being locked up pending trial while campaigning to become the president of Catalonia. The way out of that situation, and perhaps his best option for release, is for “people to turn out to vote en masse.” According to Junqueras, the law says no one can “prevent him from taking up his seat as an MP,” as long as there is a big turnout: “We have to make it difficult for them to stop us exercising our rights. And the only way is to vote,” he says.

Junqueras is behind bars due to his pursuit of independence. Yet, with the imposition of direct rule from Madrid, the goal of independence is unclear. ERC’s manifesto says that after the election the Catalan Republic must be pursued through negotiation. But what if the central government rejects talks? “There is majority in society that wants an independent state that is much larger than when ERC was the only party arguing for it,” he says, “we must always keep a hand extended and do nothing that might split the country.”