It's been four months and five days since Jordi Sànchez (Barcelona, 1964) was sent to Soto del Real prison near Madrid without bail. He arrived there on 16th October last year by order of National Audience judge Carmen Lamela, for an alleged crime of sedition derived from the demonstrations on 20th September in front of the Catalan Economy ministry during the Civil Guard's searches. Since then, Sànchez has left the presidency of the Catalan National Assembly, been second on the electoral lists Carles Puigdemont presented in last year's election and become a deputy in the new Parliament. Today he's president of Junts per Catalunya's (JxCat) parliamentary group. Over these months, he's seen Spanish justice deny, one after the other, all of the appeals he has presented for the precautionary measure of prison to be lifted. Nor was he allowed to leave jail to take part in the election campaign, or in the opening of Parliament. Now his name appears as the most probable candidate from JxCat to assume the Catalan presidency.
How are you?
I'm well, eager for the excessive measure of pretrial detention to end. It's unjust towards me, cruel towards my family and suicidal for Spain's rule of law and credibility.
Persecuting political ideas is the beginning of the end of democracy
You've been in prison more than 120 days. How do you come to terms with this situation?
It's difficult. Legally, it fits neither naturally nor peacefully with Spanish legislation nor with international human rights treaties. Politically, neither does the general case against the independence movement fit in the democratic order. Persecuting political ideas is the beginning of the end of democracy. Personally, I accept the more than 120 days in prison with strength thanks to the support of my family and the dignity with which the public has responded to the state's excessive measure, both in the streets and at the ballot box. Autumn 2017 will be remembered at the "autumn of the democratic dignity of Catalonia", let there be no doubt.
What I'm living through has, for a long time, eluded any rational analysis
Even Amnesty International has called for your release, but judge Llarena has refused again. He argues for your imprisonment emphasising that you haven't resigned from the Parliament and that you maintain your pro-independence ideology. What do you believe he's waiting for you to do to remove the precautionary measures?
The last order is as worrying as it is surprising. He's keeping me in prison for my ideas - it's not me saying this, he writes it himself in his own handwriting. Denying my release with the arguments they've used to justify it is the most serious erosion of the principles of political pluralism, with unimaginable consequences, [principles] without which democracy dies.
That said, I don't see myself able to speculate about what has to happen for the precautionary measure of unconditional imprisonment to be lifted. What I'm living through has, for a long time, eluded any rational analysis. The response to your question can only be given by the Supreme Court.
What happened about the punishment of 30 days without courtyard time they wanted to impose for your recorded speech during the election campaign?
A few days ago, I presented written arguments to the prison oversight judge. My communications aren't monitored, I used the channels explicitly authorised by the prison's management to communicate. In not one of the rules is it prohibited to spread a message from prison, in fact, I've published some ten articles and interviews. And, more importantly, the judge of the Supreme Court himself refused to let me leave prison to campaign because, although there were limitations, I "had, from prison, possibilities to address myself to voters". That's what I did.
Nobody should worry, that the majority won at the ballot boxes won't be squandered over time
Did you imagine that, two and a half months after the election, and with a pro-independence majority, there would still be no presidential investiture or government?
Honestly, yes. Think that, in normal situations, the investiture comes a month after the election. Moreover, here we've had the Christmas period, which more or less puts everything on hold for 15 days. And, logically, the scenario is everything but normal. It's barely two months since the election. It's normal that we're in a hurry because the challenges are great. It's very good that the public is demanding an investiture now. The only thing I can say is that nobody should worry, that the majority won at the ballot boxes won't be squandered over time.
What path do you think JxCat and ERC should pick to move forwards with the investiture?
There's only one path possible, a solid agreement between JxCat and ERC, who moreover hope to add -actively or passively- other support in the Parliament. The mandate from the 21st December is unequivocal, president Puigdemont's legitimacy is preserved and the investiture won't be dictated by the Moncloa [Spanish government palace]. The landscape which resulted from the 21st December, and the country's political, social and economic emergencies, require a lot of dialogue and understanding. But to have dialogue and reach broad agreements you first need to have a solid base put together and that's what JxCat and ERC are putting the finishing touches to.
It's time for politics, not speculations. My candidate, JxCat's candidate is Carles Puigdemont
Vice-president Oriol Junqueras, also in prison, has warned that the Spanish state will never allow for Carles Puigdemont to be president from Belgium. Your name has come up as a potential alternative candidate. Would you be willing to assume the role?
All speculations are excessive, it's time for politics, not speculations. My candidate, JxCat's candidate and the candidate of a large portion of the electorate is Carles Puigdemont.
Could you take on this role from prison?
Puigdemont isn't in prison. Some would like him to be behind bars, but he isn't.
Any of the 135 deputies can be president. Any other reasoning is outside of the law
There are some who believe that the new president should be a deputy not under investigation in any of the open cases against the independence process. Do you believe that would be more convenient?
That's what the Spanish government says, but the relevant law says that any of the 135 deputies can be president. Any other reasoning is outside of the law. Even the precautionary measures the Constitutional Court has established don't deny that any deputy can be president. What it's doing, beyond its functions, is setting ad hoc conditions for the convened investiture to be held. Accepting the Moncloa's reasoning is to destroy parliamentary autonomy, to recognise the guilt of those under investigation today for an alleged crime which hundreds of professors of criminal and constitutional law from around Spain, dozens of judges and former judges and former public prosecutors of the Supreme Court itself and the High Court of Justice of Catalonia say doesn't exist. Again, the Moncloa wants to illegitimately, through coercion, hiding behind powers of the state, win something it lost at the ballot box on 21st December, in an election called for its own honour and glory.
Do you believe that an investiture and the constitution of a government will facilitate the lifting of the precautionary measures against the four of you in prison?
As I've said before, only the Supreme Court knows the answer to that or, otherwise, the Constitutional Court. They've set new rules for the criminal system, only they can interpret them. We're immersed in a dynamic which responds to those who enjoy the privileges in this "lawfare". It's hard, but that's the way it is. Nothing else is considered beyond what they want to apply to us. And for the moment we've already passed 4 months in prison.