'Transferring us closer to home is not a gesture, it's a right'
Jailed former minister Jordi Turull speaks to Catalan News about his time in prison and the opportunities for dialogue between the new Catalan and Spanish governments
Jordi Turull has spent 134 days in prison. That means that this pro-independence politician has been behind bars for longer than he was in the Catalan cabinet. Former spokesman and presidency minister, he was jailed following a declaration of independence and spent a month in prison in November last year.
He was then granted bail and allowed to run in a contested election on December 21, when he was re-elected as an MP. However, the Spanish judiciary jailed him again in March, before he had time to be elected president. In fact, he was imprisoned in the middle of his own investiture debate: right before he was able to face a second round of voting that would have seen him elected.
He answered by writing to the questions of the Agència Catalana de Notícies (ACN), translated by Catalan News.
It's been three months since you were imprisoned for a second time. The judge sent you back to jail in the middle of your investiture debate.
The judge accelerated the proceedings to avoid my election as president. I'm not the one saying it, he did so, arguing that I "did not guarantee an appropriate return to self-government." If I had been elected it would have become clear that it is the Parliament of Catalonia that elects a president from its members, which have political rights, and not a judge who does so. A judge, by the way, that used a lot of criminal creativity and violated fundamental political rights.
You were allowed to run in an election, and have a seat as an MP. But they did not allow you to be reinstated as minister.
Those in favor of Article 155 and the courts made a mistake. As they often do, they underestimated how strong and wide the pro-independence movement is, and they expected a different electoral result on December 21. And when they saw what happened, instead of rectifying themselves, they continued with their strategy, using the courts in a way that should have ashamed any democrat. And that is why those of us released in December that chose to continue in politics were jailed again.
Torra proposed you as minister of the Presidency, but Spain vetoed you. When did you decide to give up the post?
When they offered me the post, I put myself at the service of the President. He had to decide what would be more appropriate, and I always was to respect that. I have always preferred to be part of a solution, not a problem.
Do you think it would be easier for you to leave prison if you give up your seat as MP?
I won't make life easier or help those that use their judicial positions to modify what citizens said in the ballot boxes. We have to defend Parliament's sovereignty and, above all, what citizens decided using their right to vote.
The Quim Torra government still says it wants to reinstate sacked ministers such as you at some point. Do you think that will actually be possible?
It's not about whether or not I think that would be possible. What is clear is that my willingness to be back will always be there. I have been in prison longer than I was a minister, and I would be lying if I said I wouldn't want to be a minister again. Especially after all that has happened. The decisions by Judge Pablo Llarena are a clear invitation to give up politics. An invitation that I won't accept because of my democratic commitment and personal values. When faced with more injustices, I am more committed.
The trial is expected to start in autumn. How will you face it?
I will face the trial calm and strong. I will explain very clearly what we did and why, and I will prove what we did not do – for instance, some of the things that the inquiry says.
What do you think about the new Spanish government? Is having the Socialists in charge good news for the prisoners?
We'll see. We'll see if they do real politics and deal with what is happening in Catalonia, or if they do the same as the old ones, just with a smile on their face. Prisoners are not commodities. We are asking for justice, we don't want to become victims of a political punishment by the judiciary, with the complicity of the government.
Prisoners are being transferred to Catalonia. Is this a gesture of goodwill to de-escalate and facilitate dialogue?
Transferring us closer to home is not a gesture. It is a right. It is our imprisonment that is unfair. Being jailed far from home was an added cruelty for our families.
Do you think the Spanish Socialists will facilitate a new era of dialogue between Catalonia and Spain?
We'll soon see if this dialogue is really about talking and reaching agreements or just a pretence. I would like it to be the first option, this is what I have always argued for.
Some of your colleagues were secretly filmed in prison. What do you think about that?
It's disgraceful that they could be secretly filmed, without authorization, and that some would even buy those images. But don't be fooled. What is hard from prison is not what is physical, it's what affects your soul: you are deprived from freedom, far and separated from your loved ones, you live in a constant monotony, in a non-desired solitude. Prison is hard on your soul, not your body.
Could there be more pro-independence leaders jailed?
Our strategy has always been democratic, but until now the Spanish State has reacted with repression, with an attitude that resembled that of the last century. The pro-independence movement knows that now and should take the most efficient actions to get results, assessing if there is a change in strategy coming from Spain, and how this can be used.