One year later, Lledoners has been filled to overflowing with solidarity for the political prisoners. Around 15,000 people - according to the organization - gathered this Thursday outside the prison of Lledoners to demand the release of the Catalan political prisoners, at an event organized by the ERC political party and the Free Junqueras platform, which focused on the two prisoners who on Friday will have completed an entire year behind bars: ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, and former interior minister Joaquim Forn.
About 100 coaches arrived at the jail, near the central Catalonia city of Manresa, from various points of Catalonia and even from the Valencian Country. In addition, many Catalans arrived at the penitentiary centre in their own vehicles, creating heavy congestion at the accesses.
The rally included musical performances and speeches, but also a strong presence of the prisoners and their families through various written messages. All seven of the pro-independence inmates wrote a joint letter stating that, one year on, their ideals and convictions are intact. "They have not managed to humiliate us. Hope is more powerful than fear," said the prisoners, thanking the public for coming to the mobilization.
Letters were also read from Junqueras, Forn and Romeva, and after the crowd had been requested to be as quiet as possible, the voice of the prisoners was heard from inside the prison, greeting the crowd.
"In another year's time, we'll know that it was worth the effort"
In his letter, Oriol Junqueras argued that "we will never ask for forgiveness for being pro-independence and republican," and he said "jail will be their defeat." In addition, he assured that "we are absolutely willing to do everything, peacefully, to defend democracy." "In a year we will know that it was worth it. The fight is long but it will be worth it. We will win", concluded the letter from the jailed vice president, read by his relatives.
For his part, Forn thanked the Catalan public for mobilising and told them they should feel "proud of what we have done." The former minister also asked the crowd to keep going and assured that "our fight will be long and hard, but we will have the best gift". "We will always remain faithful to the service of this people," he said in a text read by his wife, Laura Masvidal.
The wife of Raül Romeva, Diana Riba, also read a few words from the Catalan minister in which he spoke about Junqueras and of the need to to "keep walking" fearlessly. "We want to walk, we want to go a long way, we want to build together and the only way to do this is the way we are doing it, without fear. This is the attitude that will make us win," he said.
"The only things acceptable are freedom, acquittal and self-determination"
The event took place one day before the first anniversary of the imprisonment, but also the day before the formal accusations of the state prosecutors are known. For this reason, current Catalan vice president Pere Aragonés had words for the state, saying that "it's not good enough for sentences to be reduced or accusations changed to other offences, sleight of hand is not good enough, the only things acceptable are freedom, acquittal and self-determination."
The speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, spoke in a similar line, saying that "we do not want pardons" and he recalled that "making use of voting papers and ballot boxes is not a crime," and for this reason the prisoners "don't have to say sorry for anything ". "This farce, this lie has lasted a year, they have democracy kidnapped between bars," said Torrent, who added that "we will never renounce the liberty of this people."
Also taking part was ERC general secretary, Marta Rovira, via a video sent from Geneva, where she is in exile. She urged those at the rally to continue wearing yellow ribbons and clothing because it is a way of "denouncing that Spain has blown up our rights." "Today we have to feel strong and be on our feet," she added, in a speech that was aimed directly to the prisoners, who could hear it from within the prison..
"Now is the moment when we all have to rise to the challenge"
One of the speeches that stood out at the event was that of the deputy from the left-wing Commons group, Elisenda Alamany, who spoke for the first time in an act of this type to demand the freedom of the prisoners. Alamany called on people to act "together" against the repression and for the release of those imprisoned and supported doing so from "plurality and diversity" because "that is what makes us strong." "Now is the moment when we all have to rise to the challenge," she asserted, a week after presenting the new Sobiranistes (Sovereignists) platform within the Commons, as well as having resigned as Commons spokesperson in Parliament because of the group's internal difference between those closest to the independence movement and those closest to the other main component of the Commons, the ICV party.
Cries of "unity" were heard frequently, especially during the speeches from Aragonés and Torrent, while at other times the crowd voiced chants of "You are not alone", "Freedom" and "Independence".
The event featured musical performances by former CUP deputy David Fernàndez and former JxSí deputy and well-known Catalan musician, Lluís Llach, as well as those of Feliu Ventura and Strombers. Other political representatives who took part were JxCat deputy Aurora Madaula, Commons deputy in Madrid, Marta Sibina, and former leader of Podemos in Catalonia, Albano Dante-Fachín.