Jordi Cuixart has announced that he will be stepping down as president of cuultural and human rights civil society organization Òmnium in a radio interview on Friday morning. It is time for “new leaderhip,” he said. Cuixart has been at the helm since 2015, holding on to the position while imprisoned from October 2017 to June 2021 for his involvement in the referendum deemed illegal by Spain.

As neither Cuixart nor current vice president Marcel Mauri are standing for re-election, he is likely to be succeeded by Xavier Antich if his candidacy is backed by Òmnium members. Antich, born in 1962 in the Pyrenean town of La Seu d’Urgell, is a writer and professor at the University of Girona who also presides over the Tàpies Foundation cultural center and museum.

Of the 9 people put behind bars for the 2017 vote, it is the imprisonment of Cuixart – an activist and not a politician – that was seen as one of the most troubling by international observers. On 20 September 2017, Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – who at the time presided over the Catalan National Assembly group and is now a member of the Junts per Catalunya Party – famously stood atop a vandalized Spanish police vehicle to tell the protesters who had gathered outside the Catalan economy department to go home.

Cuixart and Sànchez were accused of instigating the demonstrators and preventing Spanish police officers from being able to leave the building where they were carrying out a raid. After being held in pre-trial detention for two years, he was sentenced to 9 years behind bars in a decision that was denounced by the Council of Europe and other rights groups such as Amnesty International or Front Line Defenders for threatening freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

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