From the Palau de la Generalitat to the Parliament of Catalonia. After being formally received by the executive in the Catalan government palace this Monday afternoon, the nine pro-independence political prisoners proceeded to the Parliament of Catalonia a kilometre away where they were welcomed by the speaker, Laura Borràs.
It was a particularly emotional event for speaker Carme Forcadell, who was today received in Parliament's Auditorium with the affection of not only the deputies but also of the officials of the Catalan chamber. "I must confess that I was thrilled to enter my home, our home, because this is the home of all the citizens of this country," admitted Forcadell when she spoke.
"The word must be free"
As at the Palau de la Generalitat, Forcadell affirmed that these were days of happiness, but of incomplete happiness, because there are still people in exile and thousands facing reprisals. She also once again attributed her release from prison to the electoral victories of the Catalan independence movement and to the judicial and political successes in Europe.
The former speaker promised to continue fighting for an end to the repression and addressed a call to the deputies present, from Junts, ERC and the CUP. "The word must be free," she warned, calling for a refusal to allow censorship in Parliament. “The word must be free, it must remain free in this Parliament,” she asserted.
All the political prisoners followed the event standing alongside the podium, while some of the government ministers were present seated in the front row. Before it began, the speaker of parliament received all nine of the prisoners in her office: speaker Forcadell, vice president Oriol Junqueras, ministers Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Quim Forn and Dolors Bassa, as well as the Òmnium president Jordi Cuixart and the former ANC president and current general secretary of Junts, Jordi Sànchez.
After that, and photographs together on Parliament's grand staircase, they proceeded to the auditorium where they were received with applause. "They forgive you, because you are, and we are, right. So welcome back to Parliament," Borràs proclaimed when speaking at the event.
"Let the limits be set by democracy"
"We will never be able to compensate for your pain. All the time they have stolen from you. But we will not let your pain be in vain," the speaker proclaimed.
She asserted that the release of the political prisoners is not a point of arrival but rather one of departure and that the Spanish government will have to show that it "approved the pardons from conviction not from obligation". "Let us make a proposal, that dialogue is frank and the limits are not those that are set by the constitution, but rather, by democracy," she demanded.
Borràs had special words for Forcadell whom she described as exemplary. "My will is to continue the work where you left it," she assured. She explained that the political prisoners were in Parliament today because they have not given up and have become a symbol that shows that "the yearning for freedom of millions of people cannot be imprisoned," but also reiterated that the image which they offered today was incomplete because they were missing their comrades who are in exile and in whose honour yellow ribbons were placed on some of the chairs.
At the end of the event, Oriol Junqueras was the first to leave Parliament, to address the ERC's special national council meeting, while the rest of the prisoners greeted those present and Jordi Sànchez addressed the Junts group.
The nine pro-independence leaders, jailed following the referendum and independence process of autumn 2017, and sentenced to 9-13 year jail terms for sedition and misuse of funds in 2019, were released last week after around three and a half years in prison, via a partial pardon granted by the Spanish government.