Catalunya Left Republicans (ERC) leader Oriol Junqueras says ‘prison life is tough’ and has complained about being jailed ‘without conviction’ despite being a democratically-elected regional MP in an interview with the BBC.
“This would not happen in the UK,” Junqueras, the deposed deputy regional president and second-in-command to Catalunya’s former leader Carles Puigdemont argues.
“I have always expressed myself democratically and peacefully,” says Junqueras, who is worried about wasting years in prison away from his two children.
Junqueras was interviewed by the BBC via a list of questions given to his solicitors at Estremera jail in the Greater Madrid region, and his responses have been particularly relevant this weekend in light of the referendum controversy throwing a spanner in the works of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where leading politicians in Catalunya refused to attend the King’s reception as the monarch did not condemn the alleged police violence on voting day.
A ‘popular, democratic and non-violent movement’, as Junqueras defines the pro-independence brigade, is measured in terms of its resilience by how able it is to ‘broaden itself’, the former deputy president says.
He has called for the regional election impasse to be resolved and for the Spanish State to stop blocking Puigdemont’s being sworn in as president again.
Currently, under State control, Catalunya will not be able to return to self-governing until it has an elected leader in the hot seat – and Puigdemont is, according to the various independence parties who gained a collective majority in the December 21 elections, the only candidate for president.
But as Puigdemont is in exile in Belgium and unable to return to Spain safely due to a national arrest warrant that would see him placed immediately in custody, he cannot attend his own investiture, as this is required to take place in the Catalunya Parliament building in Barcelona.
Junqueras, who supports Puigdemont’s claim to the regional presidency, nevertheless believes the pro-secession movement would continue, unfazed and undamaged, even if Puigdemont cannot return to governing Catalunya.
The secessionist front is made up of ‘many actors and social sectors’, who include party leaders, Junqueras told the BBC.
Yet, with or without Puigdemont, Catalunya needs to get its government back in the driving seat as soon as possible, Junqueras says.
“Our priority is to implement the results of the December 21 election, and to do so, we have to get our government back, in very complicated circumstances – but I am sure we will reach an agreement to form a government, and soon. We need to.”
Junqueras firmly believes politicians ‘should be at the service of the people’ and that their number one objective should be to ‘improve lives’ and ‘create a fairer and freer State’.
“Most people do not feel that the State is serving them,” Junqueras concludes.