It’s a dark day in Barcelona and a dark time for democracy in Spain. I am driving the 90 minutes or so out of Barcelona to Lledoners prison to visit Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and Raul Romeva. The last mile is easy – all I have to do is follow the yellow ribbons that have been adopted as a sign of solidarity and now line the roads leading to the prison.
Cuixart and Sanchez have been in jail for 11 months having been arrested and charged with sedition for their part in the Catalan referendum campaign last year. Romeva was arrested in November, released in December and then rearrested in March.
Their trial, along with the other political prisoners, is planned for November but they could be postponed until spring.
Today, I want to talk about Jordi Cuixart – president of Omnium – a cultural movement in Catalonia. He is not a politician. He is an incredibly brave, optimistic, intelligent and humble man.
I asked him how he managed to stay so positive and he explained that he lived in the moment and tried to make each moment happy. He engaged with prison life and other prisoners. He refuses to be beaten by the system he opposes. He is quick to explain that in time people will decide the political and constitutional future of Catalonia and he sees his internment as a small part of that. But he is equally quick to point out that he and his fellow political prisoners are innocent of all charges and have been wrongly imprisoned.
He wants their plight aired on a wider international arena and not allowed to be internalised by Spanish authorities. He wants the world to judge Spain during his trial not him, he is already innocent.
Jordi talks about his wife and child with enormous excitement and affection. He outlines the difficulty in creating the connections that he wants to build with his growing son. It’s the only time in the hour I spent with him when I sense any pain. Jordi Cuixart has been in prison for 11 months and can be held for four years without trial. If found guilty he could face 15 years in prison. His son will be 16 when his father gets out.
I would challenge anybody to listen to the stories of these political prisoners and consider the charges against them. Is peacefully challenging the establishment a crime? They did not use violence and did not incite it. They helped to facilitate a peaceful democratic protest.
Spanish authorities may not have liked the message they were hearing but no people or property were threatened or damaged in any way. The prisoners should be released and their families reunited.
Ronnie Cowan is an SNP MP at the UK Parliament
[This article was originally published in Scotland’s The National]