Jailed leader Junqueras urges new Spanish government to ‘take risks’
Ousted People’s Party warns Socialists not to “interfere” in judiciary amid prison transfer debate
The deposed Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, has called on the new Spanish government to “take risks.” In an interview published on Monday, the leader of the pro-independence ERC party, who has spent more than seven months in pre-trial jail, said that new Spanish president Pedro Sánchez can choose between making “superficial changes” or acting like a “statesman.” Junqueras also demanded “respect for the millions of Catalans” represented by the pro-independence leaders, while urging Sánchez to “make a move.”
While Junqueras did not specify what gestures he would like to see from the Spanish government, he identified one that was “very clear.” The number two in Puigdemont's deposed cabinet was likely hinting at the debate about transferring jailed leaders to Catalan prisons, which has gained in intensity in recent days. The nine individuals held in custody in three jails in the Madrid region are between 600km and 700km away from their relatives, leading to demands they be moved closer to home. The new Spanish minister of public administrations, Meritxell Batet, said last weekend that she would “welcome” the transfer of leaders to local prisons. Yet the People’s Party, ousted from power 10 days ago, has warned the Socialists not to “interfere” in judicial decisions.
"There cannot be any kind of political exchange with the independence movement"
Andrea Levy · People's Party MP
Batet, in charge of regional policy in Spain, said the decision is up to the judge to take, and not the Spanish government. Yet Andrea Levy, MP in the Catalan Parliament for the People’s Party, also rejected this possibility. “What is for the judges to decide, let the judges do it,” she said on Sunday. “Making political concessions in issues which are judicialized is not good, there cannot be any kind of political exchange with the independence movement,” she claimed.
Has the Spanish government powers to decide?
Whether the new Spanish government has powers to decide on the transferral of prisoners is also up for debate. While the judge in charge of their case has the final say, the Spanish government department in charge of Spanish prisons, Penitentiary Institutions, can also request it. This body is handled by Spain’s Home Affairs ministry. While Spain’s Supreme Court, in charge of the independence case, has rejected the transfer of prisoners a number of times, Penitentiary Institutions has yet to answer some requests made by Junqueras and other jailed leaders in April and May.