Catalan ministers Josep Rull i Jordi Turull have made an emotional appearance before the press to explain their experiences in prison, having been released from preventive detention this Monday. "They wanted to humiliate use but we haven't let them. They wanted to humiliate what we represent. And we say that loudly and clearly: We're leaving with our dignity and our convictions and ideals stronger than ever" said Rull before starting to describe his experience of more than a month behind bars.
The story went from the "hard and shocking" farewell on Monday with vice-president Oriol Junqueras and minister Joaquim Forn, who were kept in prison, to the treatment they had received in jail, correct from the staff at Estremera and the Civil Guard and Spanish National Police, "no complaints", they insisted. That said, they did describe some degrading episodes, like the comment from a civil servant at Navalcarnero prison to Rull when he arrived alone at that prison on the first night: "the nonsense is over". "You'll spend so much time here, in prison, that you'll end up learning the legal order by heart," he predicted.
"The prisoners would ask us, what are you doing here?" said Turull: "Yesterday we left wing 4 with all the prisoners applauding us and embracing us".
The appearance of the two ministers, in front of a large image of the four who are still in prison, Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart i Jordi Sànchez, was interrupted for a video link with president Carles Puigdemont and the ministers in exile in Brussels.
@joseprull: "Ens han volgut humiliar, però no ens hem deixat. Sortim de la presó amb la dignitat i els nostres ideals més forts que mai. El #21D cal omplir les urnes d'esperança per alliberar la resta de presos i pel retorn de @KRLS com a #president legítim"#JuntsxCAT pic.twitter.com/TjFkSyHTKH— Junts per Catalunya (@JuntsXCat) 5 de diciembre de 2017
Rull described the first hearing at the National Audience court with the judge looking at her mobile as they testified; their entry to the squalor of the National Audience's cells; the searches where they took belongings they were carrying, even rings and glasses; the difficulties of the long journeys in police vans, shackled and without safety belts on metal benches which left them falling on top of each other; the nausea; the impression from contemplating government colleagues in such a situation, handcuffed behind their backs; the time in waiting rooms where they weren't allowed to speak...
"That isn't acceptable. In this country we're constructing, never, never, never can anyone be imprisoned for peacefully defending their ideas," he said.
Both said they left prison without a hint of rancour or resentment, but with the desire to transform the experience with a positive and constructive attitude. In fact, they said they had seen "tons and tons of humanity" among the other prisoners.
Especially moving was their reference to Junqueras and Forn, those they left behind in prison, and who they asked to see before leaving, "for clemency". In the end they were able to speak thanks to the visit from their lawyers. "We only said one thing to them, that we will take them out of there," said Turull.
The ministers expressed their thanks for the support they have received from the public; for the letters, the warmth of which they highlighted, for the money received to cover their bail, which even surprised the other prisoners.
The satisfaction from having returned home even allowed them moments of humour, jokes about the fifteen hours they spent together each day, and about Rull's ping-pong skill. At the end of the press conference, more relaxed, they even told anecdotes about prison life, from their fellow inmates, some convicted of very violent crimes, to daily life, the quality of the food, the snacks from the prison shop, or the 5-minute calls they were allowed.
From now, they want to take part in the election campaign. "We only have two jobs, to break our backs working so that those who are in prison can leave and so that the president can return and we will head into this campaign. [Election day,] the 21st December is a great opportunity", they said, emphasising that it has to be Catalans' votes which enable the return of the absent ministers.
Asked about their expressions of acceptance of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and the suspension of Catalan autonomy, the ministers repeated their opposite position. "We've left with the same dignity with which we entered and with the same convictions and ideals, which have always been civil and democratic. We will defend them and the message we sent to the public, and which we said before the court, is that we're absolutely against [article] 155," said Turull.
The two ministers appeared at Barcelona's Imagina building, the same place the Catalan government had announced the results of the referendum on 1st October. Within hours of arriving home in the early morning from Estremera prison they wanted to immediately get back to politics.
As for returning to normal, daily life, for Turull that meant taking his daughter to school, whilst Rull said that he has been able to hug his children, who he had only been able to see once in this whole time so they didn't have to visit him from the other side of a window, and his mother.