THE family of a former Catalan Government minister who has been in prison without trial for three months have spoken of their anguish after a judge yesterday refused to release him and one of his colleagues.

Joaquim Forn, who faces possible charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of funds, was home affairs minister in the run-up to the independence referendum last October, and the subsequent declaration of independence.

He stepped down as an MP last month and rejected any “unilateral” means to achieve independence, but Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena said he still posed a risk of committing a repeat offence.

Speaking exclusively to The National yesterday from Forn’s home town of Viladrau, in the province of Girona, his sister Marta and brother-in-law Alejandro Scherk said everyone was worried about what would happen to him. “The judge has kept my brother-in-law in jail because he still believes that he can be a danger outside and has decided to keep him and we don’t know for how long – it’s very bad news for us,” said Scherk.

“All our friends and family are very worried and upset because we don’t know when he’s going to be freed.

“I visited him a month ago and we’re hoping to see him again soon. His mother is going to see him next week. We hoped he could be freed but that’s not the case.”

Scherk blamed one man for his brother-in-law’s continued incarceration – Colonel Diego Perez de los Cobos, who was appointed to co- ordinate the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan Police), National Police Corps (CNP) and the Guardia Civil during the indyref campaign.

“He was the main person in court who spoke against all the independentists, but especially my brother-in-law, and that is what kept him in jail,” he said.

“The judge also said that the independence ideas of Joaquim were a danger – if he were freed he could still influence people.

“He has stood down as a deputy [MP], he is no longer a minister and I think he has done everything he can to be freed. He cannot do any more. The Spanish state are being aggressive towards the independentists.”

However, Scherk added: “My wife wants independence no matter what price has to be paid – she is very angry at what is happening and she wants us to be independent as soon as possible.”

In his ruling, Llarena, said Forn maintained his independence aspirations, which “make it possible for him to repeat offences that would seem absurd to people with opposite ideas”. “His ideology exists in a political context in which it is not certain that the intention to achieve the independence of Catalonia has vanished.”

One of Forn’s jailed colleagues, former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, faces up to three weeks of being denied access to the prison’s exercise yard as punishment for a radio interview in December, which was said to be unauthorised. He was a candidate in the December election for the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) but was refused permission take part in the campaign from jail.

Officials in the Madrid penitentiary said Junqueras used a phone call to a friend to conduct a brief interview that was broadcast on a radio station, and that when asked about the post- electoral discussions, he said he was in favour of “consensus” and a “united” government. Llarena agreed there was “no evidence” that Junqueras committed any specific violent acts or gave “direct orders to commit violence.”

“But, by defending unilateral independence politically with no regard or respect for the current law of the State of which Catalonia forms part, by inciting citizens to disobey resolutions from the Constitutional Court … he has encouraged those who share his position to publicly mobilise, to occupy public spaces, with the objective of effectuating a unilateral declaration of independence.”

Criticism of the decision was swift and scathing. Writer Liz Castro tweeted: “This country has now definitively reached planetary levels of ridiculousness.”