Six Catalan separatist prisoners return to regional Parliament

BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) — Six former members of Catalonia’s regional government have been escorted from prison to attend a hearing at the regional Parliament in Barcelona.

Ex-regional vice-president Oriol Junqueras and five other former Cabinet members who are all serving sentences for attempting to secede from Spain were greeted yesterday with applause and cheers of “Liberty!” by a small crowd of supporters inside the Parliament building.

They were not handcuffed, and no uniformed guards were escorting them, although there were police deployed outside. Regional President Quim Torra and the Speaker of the House greeted them with hugs and warm handshakes on arrival.

This is the first time that the six have returned to the Catalan Parliament since they were taken into custody following the failed October 2017 independence bid. They and three more colleagues were convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds in October by Spain’s Supreme Court and given sentences of nine to 13 years.

They were summoned to the regional Parliament to attend a committee session addressing the consequences of the central authorities’ temporary takeover of the region’s control at the height of the 2017 crisis.

Their return comes at a time when the separatist movement is struggling to maintain the unity of its three main political parties.

Oriol Junqueras at the Parliament of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. PHOTO: AP