Protests demand freedom for jailed leaders at 3 month mark

Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were sent to prison on October 16, and various towns throughout Catalonia have held demonstrations to demand their release

Demonstration participants in Barcelona demand the freedom of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez on January 16 2018 (by Laura Fíguls)
Demonstration participants in Barcelona demand the freedom of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez on January 16 2018 (by Laura Fíguls) / ACN


January 16, 2018 09:03 PM

It’s exactly three months to the day that pro-independence grassroots leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were sent to prison. Accused of sedition, on October 16 of last year they were remanded to precautionary detention for their role in Catalonia’s push for independence. Tonight, towns and cities throughout Catalonia will be holding demonstrations in a show of support for the two civil society figures and to demand their release.

Gatherings were seen in the main squares before the town halls of Girona, Tarragona, Lleida and Barcelona, all at 8pm sharp. As well as bearing signs reading ‘Freedom for political prisoners,’ as well as ‘We are Freedom,’ ‘We are Democracy,’ and ‘We are Dignity,’ participants proudly wore yellow ribbons, which in these last 90 days or so have come to stand for the cause.

Participants in the demonstration to demand freedom for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart hold a sign reading 'We are Rights' and 'We are people of peace: freedom' with their mobile flashlights lit in Barcelona on January 16, 2018 (by Laura Fíguls)

In Barcelona, the protest ended at the doors of the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC). Here, under the banner ‘We are people of peace: Freedom,’ politicians and leaders from civil society also were in attendance. They demanded not only the release of the grassroots leaders, but of the pro-independence figures who are also still behind bars, deposed vice president Oriol Junqueras and minister of Home Affairs Joaquim Forn.

A lot has happened since last autumn, when Cuixart and Sànchez were taken to the Soto de Real penitentiary center in the Madrid region. Before the end of the month, a declaration of independence had been made in the Catalan Parliament, with the Spanish government subsequently implementing Article 155 to seize Catalonia’s self-rule and dismissing its entire government. Half of the cabinet was then jailed in the first days of November, with the other half—including president Puigdemont—traveling to Belgium, where they remain. Sànchez then decided to leave his post as president of the Catalan National Assembly, or ANC (Cuixart remains head of Òmnium Cultural) to join Puigdemont on his candidacy, Together for Catalonia.

Tonight’s gatherings are mark protest number five to demand the men be freed—one even taking place in Brussels, Belgium, with 45,000 marching in the European capital on December 7. This, only a few days after all but two Catalan ministers were released on December 4. And still, the Spanish Supreme Court judge presiding over the case decided to keep Cuixart and Sànchez in prison.

In the Spanish justice system, pretrial prison can last for a maximum of four years for the more serious sentences, according to Human Rights Watch. The two men requested to be freed on bond, testifying before the Spanish Supreme Court magistrates on January 11. In the hearing, they renounced unilaterality. But, many are not optimistic regards their possible release: Junqueras was already turned down for being let out on bond.  The Spanish Supreme Court’s decision on the freedom of Sànchez, Cuixart, and Forn is yet to be made.