Jailed activist re-elected as president of major pro-independence group

Jordi Cuixart, in prison for 8 months, to continue leading Òmnium Cultural

Jordi Cuixart in a pro-independence rally in 2017 (by ACN)
Jordi Cuixart in a pro-independence rally in 2017 (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 16, 2018 01:52 PM

Jailed activist Jordi Cuixart has been re-elected as president of Òmnium Cultural, one of Catalonia’s leading pro-independence grassroots organizations. He was preemptively sent to prison for his role in the independence bid on October 16—eight months ago today.

Cuixart received 28,183 votes in Òmnium’s general assembly on Saturday, which saw the highest turnout in the organization’s history.

In a message sent from prison, Cuixart urged pro-independence supporters to “continue carrying the banner for dialogue.” He also asked them not to expect anyone to abandon their political objectives.

Òmnium’s general assembly was attended by some of Catalonia’s most prominent politicians, such as president Quim Torra, parliament speaker Roger Torrent, ministers Miquel Buch and Chakir El Homrani, as well as Barcelona mayor Ada Colau.

Cuixart faces criminal charges of rebellion for his role in the political roadmap that led to a referendum and a declaration of independence last October, all deemed illegal by Spain. Still awaiting trial, Cuixart's alleged offense carries prison sentences of up to 30 years.

Òmnium Cultural membership meets in Barcelona to decide on the organization's leadership (by Bernat Vilaró)

In total, there are nine pro-independence leaders jailed in Madrid, including deposed ministers, members of the Catalan parliament, and the former speaker. There are also seven politicians seeking refuge from prosecution in other European countries, such as former president Carles Puigdemont in Germany.

In his recorded speech, Cuixart said that the case against Catalan leaders is an "opportunity" to internationalize the "violation of rights and liberties" in Spain. "We, the political prisoners and the exiled, can be a lever for [improving] democracy. We are not the symbol of a defeat," he said.

New delegation in Brussels

Òmnium vice president Marcel Mauri, who was also re-elected on Saturday, announced that the organization will open a delegation in Brussels in the following weeks.

Mauri said the objective of the office will be to denounce "attacks on freedoms and civil rights" before the European Union institutions, as well as promoting Catalan culture and language.

With 120,000 members, Òmnium's affiliation soared as tensions over the independence bid peaked last October. Along with the Catalan National Assembly, Òmnium is responsible for organizing million strong pro-independence rallies every year on September 11 (Catalonia's national day) since 2012.