CATALAN president Quim Torra has warned the Spanish prime minister that any negotiations they have on the future of Catalonia cannot start from a point of surrender.

Speaking during the first full session of the new parliament he also reminded Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez that pro-independence parties had a mandate from the October 1 independence referendum, known as 1-O, which had been ratified in the December 21 election (21-D) ordered by then prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

“Surrender has been demanded to dialogue,” said Torra, adding: “Democracy and the desire for freedom will never surrender ... this is not the starting point for the negotiation.”

He said the actions of the Spanish state during the independence referendum were not peaceful or democratic: “Respect for the vote and the will of the people should be a good starting point to negotiate.

“I hope Sanchez will agree to deal urgently with the question of Catalonia.”

The president said his new executive was committed to revealing the consequences of direct rule which “should worry any democrat” – simply because the restrictions had been lifted, did not mean Spain could not reimpose them.

He claimed civil servants had already told some of the new ministers about the problems it had caused.

“Defencelessness before the law, financial aid denied, files closed, the slowing up of procedures and increased bureaucracy, the constant questioning of any initiative,” he said, adding that voters and public bodies “have suffered from a loss of rights, and persecution”.

To counter this, Torra said he would create a new office of civil and political rights, working with the ombudsman to end rights violations.

Another body, the Commission for the Deployment of Self-government, would be charged with creating a plan of action to assess and repair the effects of direct rule over seven months which had been “disastrous” for Catalonia.

The president spoke of the legitimacy of the government led by the exiled Carles Puigdemont and said: “The commitment is to maintain a fluid and regular contact with the previous executive, because you cannot normalise a situation like this.”

Puigdemont and the preventative detention of ministers resurfaced in an interview Torra gave to Swiss daily the Geneva Tribune, in which he said their imprisonment was “unjustifiable”. If Sanchez wanted to give any credibility to his stated desire to negotiate with Catalonia, Torra said he would have to prove it by acting over the political prisoners, which “cannot wait”.

On a suggestion of an amnesty, he said that would only “recognise that they have committed a crime” and he did not see voters expressing their political choices at the polls as a crime.

“We do not want amnesty, we want justice,” he said. In the interview, he said that because direct rule had been lifted, this did not mean that Spain could not reapply it.

Torra has made no secret of his desire for Puigdemont to return to Catalonia as its president.

He told the Geneva Tribune: “I cannot give a date about his return to the presidency but the most beautiful day of my career will be the day Puigdemont returns to the Palau de la Generalitat.”