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Sant Jordi (as Saint George is known in Catalan) is the patron saint of Catalonia as well as England, and his feast day, 23rd April, is an important festival here. Every year on this day, the Catalan president gives a formal speech to the country. This time, Quim Torra used the message to remember the existence of the political prisoners and exiles and to call for the international community to intervene. Switching to English, the president said Catalonia is going through "difficult times" and facing a "different" Sant Jordi for the second year running.

As a new week of hearings started in the trial the Supreme Court in Madrid, the president said that "political trials cannot be tolerated", nor can a democracy "tolerate the voice of the people being silenced with violence and threats". "We ask once again for the involvement of Europe and the international community to resolve this conflict in a democratic way," he said.

"As Catalans, we are living in difficult times. After giving voice to the citizens to decide the political future of Catalonia, some members of the previous government are now in prison or exile because of the repression of the Kingdom of Spain. For this reason, Sant Jordi's Day [has been] different the last two years and we must call for their freedom," he argued.

"We celebrate our existence as a country"

In the president's annual message from the Catalan government palace in Barcelona, Torra's first since taking office, he recalled the legend of Sant Jordi, which he characterised as that of "a brave and generous and knight who embodies the spirit of a people which has already fought many dragons and which has never let itself be vanquished".

Books are an important part of Sant Jordi's Day, so the president also discussed Catalan language and culture in his speech. Catalan, he said, "has been persecuted and banned through the centuries and still today has adversaries, laws and institutions which would wish to make it disappear".

He said the 23rd April is important as a chance to "celebrate that we exist as a country", a "welcoming" country which "has incorporated diversity and new identities into [its] genuine expression of commitment to [its] Catalan language and identity".

The president ended his speech calling for a renewal "with greater strength than ever" of "the fight for the return and the victory of freedom".

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