Interview: Jailed Catalan leader appeals for non-violence at protests

A Catalan pro-independence leader in pre-trial detention for nearly a year has urged separatists to avoid violence during protests planned against a Spanish government meeting in Barcelona on Friday.

Interview: Jailed Catalan leader appeals for non-violence at protests
In this file photo taken on March 23, 2018 Catalan separatist leader Jordi Turull arrives at the Supreme Court in Madrid. Photo: AFP

“I would not like it if people, with their faces covered, demanded my freedom,” Jordi Turull, a former spokesman for the Catalan regional government, told AFP from behind a glass screen at the Lledoners prison some 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Barcelona.

“We have to do as we have always done, which is to protest peacefully,” added Turull, who has been on a hunger strike for 17 days.   

He is one of nine Catalan separatist leaders awaiting trial in jail over Catalonia's failed independence bid last year.   

In total 18 people will stand trial on charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds and disobedience.

The trial is likely to start in early 2019  — more than a year after Catalan leaders in the northeastern region attempted to break away from Spain in October 2017 by staging a referendum despite a court ban, and then  proclaiming independence to no avail.

Spain's Supreme Court held a preliminary hearing on Wednesday to decide on its competence to hear the case.   

Turull has shed seven kilos (15 pounds) since he started a hunger strike on December 1. Last week he was transferred to the prison's infirmary.   

The casual sports clothes he wore, which contrasted to the sharp suits he used to wear at press conferences, failed to hide the weight loss.


The 52-year-old said he was concerned by some recent protests by radical separatists, who have clashed with police.   

“I don't like some of the images I have seen,” he said, citing a demonstration in the city of Girona on December in which 15 police officers were injured as an example.

“This is not our way of doing things,” Turull said. 

Similar scenes could play out again on Friday when Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez holds an cabinet meeting in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia which is split over the issue of independence.

Pro-independence groups have called on their supporters to take to the streets to protest against the meeting, which coincides with the one-year anniversary of snap polls in Catalonia called by Spain's central government after the region unsuccessfully declared independence.

Separatist parties once again won an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament in the election, even though many candidates were in jail or self-imposed exiled over their role in the failed independence bid.

“Over ten percent of lawmakers elected that day are in jail or in exile. To come on that day is a provocation,” said Turull.

'Dream of tuna can'

He began his hunger strike on December 1 along with another jailed Catalan leader, Jordi Sanchez, the former head of grassroots separatist group ANC, to protest what they say was a Constitutional Court block of their attempted appeal to the European court of human Rights against their provisional detention.

They were joined by two more Catalan leaders at the Lledoners prison two days later.   

“We saw that there was a coordinated action to not allow us to go before European justice…You reach a moment when you have to shake things up because this is normalising a violation of rights,” said Turull.

Turull denied allegations that the aim of the hunger strike is to draw attention away from a wave of protests the Catalan government has faced against austerity measures, or to mask splits within the pro-independence camp.   

He said the hardest part of the hunger strike was the “psychological aspect”.

“I dream of a tuna can,” Turull said, adding that while the hunger strike is open-ended, he promised his family that he would not put his life at risk.   

Turull said he wants to “be strong” for his trial.   

“I look forward to going and showing that the charges are a fabrication,” he said.

For members


14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain