CATALONIA

Jailed Catalan separatist leaders may be placed in more flexible prison regime

The assessment boards of three jails have unanimously agreed to pass on the inmates’ request to move to Grade 3, which would mean they only have to spend the nights of Monday through Thursday behind bars

Former Catalan deputy premier Oriol Junqueras leaves prison to teach at a university in March.
Former Catalan deputy premier Oriol Junqueras leaves prison to teach at a university in March.Susanna Sáez / EFE

Nine Catalan separatist leaders jailed for their involvement in the 2017 independence bid may be granted greater freedom if a decision by three prison assessment boards is ratified by the Catalan regional government.

The justice department of the Catalan government announced on Thursday that three assessment boards had unanimously agreed to pass on the inmates’ request to be placed in a Grade-3 regime, which is the least restrictive of Spain’s three-tiered prison system. Under this regime, convicts are allowed day release and spend only the nights of Monday through Thursday in jail.

If it depended on the Catalan regional government, they wouldn’t be in prison
Amand Calderó, secretary general of penitentiary affairs at the Catalan justice department

“Third grade does not waive the sentence, it is a way of carrying out the sentence,” said Amand Calderó, secretary general of penitentiary affairs at the Catalan justice department. The assessment board is a technical body made up of prison directors, psychologists, educators, jurists and social workers. Their report is not binding, and the Catalan justice department will have to make a decision within two months.

The measure affects former Catalan deputy premier Oriol Junqueras, the former regional department chiefs Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa and Raül Romeva; former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell; and the heads of two civil society associations, Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural and Jordi Sànchez of Asamblea Nacional Catalana (ANC).

On October 14, 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced these individuals to between nine and 13 years in prison after finding them guilty of sedition in connection with the unilateral breakaway attempt of October 2017.

For the last three months, the prisoners have been in a more flexible scheme after applying for Article 100.2 of prison regulation, which allows them to leave jail for work, to work as a volunteer and to take care of a dependent. Under this regime, the inmates only have to be in prison when they are not carrying out one of these tasks and on the weekend.

The Catalan regional government has two months to ratify the boards‘ decision

Under Spanish law, an assessment board must review an inmate’s prison regime every six months. In the case of the jailed separatist leaders, the deadline for the next review is June 9. “The law establishes that someone cannot be kept in a lower prison grade if they can be in a higher one,” explained Calderó, who said that the leaders have been in jail for an average of two-and-a-half years.

Although the justice department does not need to make a decision for two months, Calderó said that it rarely waits for this time to expire, meaning a decision could be made much sooner.

Catalan authorities, however, do not have the final word on the matter. “If it depended on the Catalan regional government, they wouldn’t be in prison,” said Calderó.

The public prosecutor can file an appeal, which will then be studied by the Prison Supervision Court. If this court sides with the prosecutor, the Supreme Court will have the final say. The public prosecutor appealed each of the nine prisoners’ requests to apply for Article 100.2, but in every case, the Prison Supervision Court backed the decision of the Catalan regional government.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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