CATALAN INDEPENDENCE DRIVE

Jailed Catalan politician released from prison to teach class at a Barcelona university

Oriol Junqueras, of the Catalan Republican Left party, is currently serving a 13-year sentence for his role in the 2017 independence drive

Students look on as Oriol Junqueras (r) arrives at Vic University.
Students look on as Oriol Junqueras (r) arrives at Vic University.Quique García / EFE

Jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras was released from prison on Tuesday morning so that he could teach a class at the Vic University in Manresa, Barcelona province. The leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party is currently serving a 13-year sentence for his role in the 2017 independence drive in the northeastern Spanish region, which saw an illegal referendum on secession from Spain followed by the passing of a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament.

Junqueras was given the prison sentence last year by the Supreme Court after a lengthy trial, but was first placed in custody in the wake of the events of October 2017 given that the courts considered that he presented a flight risk and could reoffend. On Thursday, he received notification that article 100.2 of the Penitentiary Regulations was being applied, allowing him to leave jail to work.

There is a chance that the public prosecutor will challenge the decision by Lledoners prison to allow Junqueras out to teach class

According to Vic University, Junqueras – who is a doctor of history – will be joining the institution as an associate professor. Vic University explained that it received a proposal from Junqueras for him to work as a professor. Before entering politics, the ERC leader taught classes at Barcelona’s Autonomous University.

The Catalan regional justice department announced on Thursday that both Junqueras and his former colleague in the Catalan government, Raül Romeva, would be allowed out of jail. Romeva was also imprisoned for his role in the 2017 secessionist drive. In total, seven of the nine jailed pro-independence leaders have been placed on a more flexible prison regime, paving the way for them to be released to work.

The other five individuals who have been granted permission to work, do volunteer work or take care of family members are the former regional ministers Joaquim Forn and Dolors Bassa, former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, and two civil society leaders, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. The former regional ministers Jordi Turull and Josep Rull are not beneficiaries of article 100.2.

There is, however, a chance that the public prosecutor will challenge the decision by Lledoners prison to allow Junqueras out to teach class. The prosecutor has already filed appeals against the application of article 100.2, arguing that it represents a covert effort to grant the prisoners similar conditions to a semi-open regime known in Spanish as tercer grado. The public prosecutor requested that these more lenient conditions only be introduced after half of the sentences had been served.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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