The Catalan presidency minister removed from office by Mariano Rajoy's government, Jordi Turull, was sent back into pretrial detention for his role in the 2017 Catalan referendum over a year ago just as the Catalan Parliament was debating investing him president. In April's general election, he became one of five of the Catalan political prisoners to successfully stand for the Congress or Senate. This Monday, he went to the Congress from Soto del Real prison along with Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Josep Rull under close guard to complete the requisite paperwork before taking office. On Tuesday, they returned to the chamber, as Raül Romeva headed back to the Senate, for the opening session of the new legislature.
The newly elected deputy has written an exclusive account for El Nacional of his experience of two intense days.
Monday, 20th May 2019
El Nacional has asked me to write a short diary with all the details possible of these two days going to the Congress. I'm happy to do so, especially after having heard all kinds of speculation and outrageous comments over these days, all about what we'll do and what we'll be able to do. They dedicate time to the details, I suppose, to not talk about the meat and the heart of the matter, which is the disgrace for the state's democracy of taking the lesson of detention without bail to these levels. These trips to the Congress aren't a favour from anyone nor can they in any way whitewash the injustice of our situation. Let's make that clear!
Yesterday I asked Jordi Cuixart what we could do to keep him, Carme [Forcadell], Dolors [Bassa] and Quim Forn with us these two days whilst we're in the Congress. He told me: "Put on that yellow rose pin those women from Vilanova i la Geltrú gave us for Sant Jordi". And that's what I'll do. To defend them, and to recognise so, so many people from Catalonia who do. not. stop doing things to call for our release. I'll also wear my ministerial badge. That, always, to remember the honour of having formed part of president Puigdemont's government, the government of the 1st October [2017 referendum]. The tie will be (for my official deputy photo) one which my younger daughter, Marta, brought me and chose for me to wear to the trial. I don't want to forget my family for anything and what they have to put up with and how they help me weather this unjust situation.
At 8:10am, we left our cell block to go to the transfers unit. There, there were, waiting for us, various Civil Guard officers. Some of them in plain clothes, very snappy. We were there until almost 9, when we got into the cars. In one, Raül, to go to the Senate. In another, Jordi Sànchez and Josep Rull and, in the last car, Oriol Junqueras and myself. Before leaving the prison grounds, two other cars joined us: one, a normal Civil Guard vehicle, and another, a large one, unmarked like ours. Into our cars they loaded antiriot police shields and helmets and more weapons.
Towards 9:10am, the whole convoy left the prison. Getting to La Paz hospital and turning onto La Castellana, they put on the blue lights and people started making way for us. It was quite an experience. We could see the landscape. We saw where Tres Cantos is and the hotel where they tell us our families sleep when they come to see us and have to stay overnight in Madrid.
There was a moment with the blues and twos when they improvised a new lane on La Castellana in the dashed area between the two directions of traffic. We crossed plaza de Cibeles, turned and at plaza de las Cortes turned into the car park in front of the Congress (not coming from behind, as the media said). The trip, obviously, went quickly. Once in the car park, we did the change of police, from the Civil Guard to the National Police. We were received by the commissioner from the Congress' police unit. She took us to her office and explained to us how everything would go, the limits we'd have, and said she hoped everything would go well.
We could see the landscape. We saw where Tres Cantos is and the hotel where they tell us our families sleep when they come to see us.
The fact is that both the Civil Guard and the police in the Congress have been very friendly and treated us more than courteously.
We have a police officer attached to each prisoner. In my case, a policewoman.
We went up to fill out the paperwork. Suddenly, leaving the elevator, we found ourselves with, all mixed together, a wall of video cameras, photographers and friendly deputies from Junts per Catalunya, ERC, EH Bildu and Podemos.
Entering the room where we had to fill out the forms, the former justice minister [Rafael Catalá], I believe, was doing the same. I say "I believe" because he suddenly disappeared from the end of the large table where he was.
I was helped to fill out all the papers by [fellow JxCat deputy] Míriam Nogueras and a Congress lawyer. Official photo. Sergi Miquel, Laura Borràs [and senator Josep Lluís] Cleries brought us (very) small Iberian ham sandwiches and a coffee we were very grateful for. The four of us took photos and Laura Borràs encouraged me to record a video
I have to thank Gerard Gómez [del Moral], from ERC, for his words the other day in the Catalan Parliament. We embraced. With Gabriel Rufián we congratulated each other as pericos (Espanyol FC supporters). We went into a side room. We filled out more papers. We again embraced our colleagues in our parliamentary group and our collaborators.
Suddenly, leaving the elevator, we found ourselves with, all mixed together, a wall of video cameras, photographers and friendly deputies from Junts per Catalunya, ERC, EH Bildu and Podemos.
Kisses on the cheek, a mix of feelings and the same circuit back to the prison. Today was a taste of what tomorrow will be. At 12:25pm, we were already back in the cell block. And like kids who have gone on a school trip we told Forn and Cuixart all the details and stories. In the afternoon [lawyer and former Congress deputy] Quico Homs came to see us in the prison. We talked about how everything will go tomorrow [that is, Tuesday].
We'll see what margin to move we've got and how closely we're watched. You can always do more or less. I hope they let me say hello to and hug [my wife] Blanca who, along with [Rull's wife] Meritxell Lluís and [Sànchez's wife] Susanna Barreda and [Forn's wife] Laura Masvidal too, will be coming tomorrow. Each parliamentary group can only bring in one person, and other groups have been kind enough to give us theirs. I think it was EAJ and EH Bildu.
Once we're back in our cells, locked up until tomorrow, they let us know we'll be leaving the block at 7 in the morning, much earlier than today.
Tuesday, 21st May 2019
I get up at 5:45. I want to do lots of things before leaving. Today is the my sister Isabel's birthday. I hope that, with a day as different as today will be, I won't forget to send her my congratulations.
At seven we left the cell block. To wait in the transfer unit again. Today there were lots of prisoners there. We waited until 7:30 when we left with the same system as yesterday, the same distribution in the cars. Today, there was a lot more traffic and we had the sirens on from Tres Cantos to Cibeles. This time, however, we didn't go in through yesterday's car park but through a rear door from the street. They took us to a room/office where we waited for the bell which warns the plenary session's about to start. We had coffee, milk and a croissant to pass the time. The police reminded us how everything would go, explaining it again, and the leeway on movement we'd have. Today in the waiting room there were the four of us alone with a couple of police. Again today, they were all very attentive and friendly. It was 8:15 when we arrived and we've got to be here until 10am, in this room. Basically, we flicked through channels on the TV there was in the room. Josep Rull didn't stop changing the channel to see who was saying the worst things about us. And we joked around. The four of us laughed a lot at ourselves and everything they were saying about us.
Finally, the bell rings and we go to the chamber. It was very full. You could hear a loud noise and the applause of Junts per Catalunya and ERC's deputies and a few others. A very strange feeling. And I started to see faces I recognised. Albert Rivera made an effort to not say hello; with Inés [Arrimadas], behind him, we exchanged glances, greetings and two kisses. Then I said hello to everyone I know and I fancied going up to, and I said hello to everyone whose eyes I caught. I hold no bitterness or resentment for anyone or anything. And today is the best day to show that. There is only gratitude and commitment. That's what's filling my whole head and my heart. Gratitude and commitment, there's not room for even an ounce of resentment for anything they may have said or done. I went to congratulate Meritxell Batet [at that point, about to be voted speaker for the new legislature]. It's the right thing to do. When they said the result I was out of the chamber to do something that "nobody could do for me".
You could hear a loud noise and the applause of Junts per Catalunya and ERC's deputies and a few others. A very strange feeling.
The session is very long, the solemnity crumbling bit by bit. We're trying to manage to be able to say hello to our wives. Between the new presiding Board and the commissioner they'll say something. We hope we can. In fact, it's logical, but they're the ones we're most keen to greet and hug.
We go to the bar a couple of times, and what I ate and drank tasted of glory... I spoke most with Pablo Iglesias, [José] Zaragoza and Aitor [Esteban]. On the way to vote, I also spoke with prime minister Pedro Sánchez. And with Jaume Asens, not just about politics, but also about the whole legal matter.
Today we're again wearing the yellow rose to think of Cuixart, Dolors, Carme and Quim Forn. I think about them a lot and about things which I know will make them laugh when we can tell them. Today I'm wearing the same tie I wore when I testified in the Supreme Court: blue covered in yellow dots in remembrance of the people who do so, so much for our freedom and the freedom of Catalonia.
Today with Laura Borràs, Míriam, Sergi and Jaume, we were in very, very good company. This group will do a lot of work, very good work, although many different sides are want to ignore us. We will fight to the last option we have available to form part of this magnificent group.
I told the agriculture minister that Lleida needs much more help and changes to help farmers, both arable and pastoral. It was just a passing greeting, but you've got to take advantage of everything.
The moment of the oath of office arrives. And it all turns into the atmosphere of a tavern. Shouts, hitting the benches. Rivera wanting to make a scene. I see a lot of nervousness and a lot of bad manners. There's no respect for diversity. What a start! What a shame! The former solemnity has now not only crumbled, it's gone on to a better life.
The former solemnity has now not only crumbled, it's gone on to a better life. We prisoners are more calm and composed than the others. Very symptomatic.
We'll make [the promise] under legal imperative and clearly we'll remain loyal to the democratic mandate of the 1st October . I've done it now, they got overexcited about it all. I don't understand it. We prisoners are more calm and composed than the others. Very symptomatic.
We ended up speaking by phone with president Puigdemont and being able to say hello to our relatives. The Congress staff and police inside, very friendly too. And today is over. See you soon.
Jordi Turull i Negre