PEN International and PEN Català welcome the release on June 22 of unjustly imprisoned Catalan writers and civil society leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, who were serving a nine-year prison sentence for sedition through participation in Catalonia’s independence referendum held on 1 October 2017.
Sànchez and Cuixart were among nine jailed Catalan politicians and activists pardoned by the Spanish government. All remain banned from public office, with the pardons conditional on them not committing serious crimes over a given period of time.
“The release of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart is a huge relief, but they should never have been convicted on the charge of sedition in the first place. That they spent almost four years behind bars is an injustice and an outrage. No one should be jailed for peacefully expressing themselves. While this is a positive step, we urge the Spanish authorities to also quash the sentences and convictions of Sànchez and Cuixart,” said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
The pardons came a day after the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly called on Spain to pardon or otherwise release from prison the Catalan politicians and activists, and to amend the definition of the crimes of rebellion and sedition in the Criminal Code in such a way that they cannot lead to ‘disproportionate sanctions for non-violent transgressions’.
Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were taken into custody on 16 October 2017 on charges of sedition, and subsequently charged with rebellion in March 2018. They were amongst 12 Catalan politicians and activists who stood trial over their participation in the independence referendum. Oral proceedings opened on 12 February 2019 and lasted over four months. All asked for their acquittal, claiming that their actions were based on civil disobedience and the exercise of fundamental rights.
In May 2019, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned the detention of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. It called on the Spanish authorities to release them immediately and to accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations. On 14 October 2019, Spain’s Supreme Court found Sànchez and Cuixart guilty of sedition and sentenced them to nine years in prison.
Jordi Sànchez is the former president of the Catalan National Assembly. As former director of the Jaume Bofill Foundation, he co-authored several reports on social equality, migration, public policy and education, democratic values and civil society participation, as well as a range of academic papers. Jordi Cuixart is the president of Òmnium Cultural and a member of PEN Català. He is the author of a book of poems entitled El plaer dels plaers, published in 2007. Sànchez and Cuixart both contributed to the 2018 book Per la llibertat and have written numerous press articles while in detention.
Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were pardoned on 22 June 2021