NINE Catalan pro-independence leaders in “pre-emptive detention” for their roles in the October referendum are on the move from prisons in Madrid to institutions closer to their homes.

The first group – vice president Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart – are expected to arrive in Catalonia today after spending last night in Zaragoza prison.

They were driven from Madrid in a Civil Guard van bound for Brians II jail, where they will be handed over to the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra.

Former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and ex-minister Dolors Bassa will also arrive in Catalonia today after spending last night in Alcalá-Meco, one of Spain’s oldest prisons.

Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena yesterday confirmed that the three remaining politicians in Madrid – former ministers Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull – would also be transferred closer to their homes.

The seven male political prisoners will be reunited at Lledoners prison, near Barcelona, which was built a decade ago and is one of Catalonia’s most modern prisons.

All nine are charged with rebellion, disobedience and misuse of public funds and are awaiting trial.

Moving them is seen as something of a goodwill gesture before the new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and new Catalan President Quim Torra hold their first meeting next week.

However, Forn’s family said that while the transfer was welcome, it was not enough.

His sister, Marta, told The National: “I’m feeling well but it isn’t enough because we would prefer for him to be home.

“Right now, we are still waiting for him to be transferred, hopefully this week. And yes, the transfer will make it easier for us to visit him, so we are a bit happier than before. I talked to him last Sunday… he was fine. All the Catalan prisoners had organised a small farewell party with the other inmates. He told us that when they had to leave that jail they wouldn’t any time to say goodbye.”

Catalan Government spokeswoman, Elsa Artadi, said the prisoners’ transfer was a “legal obligation” not a concession, and she wanted them to be released immediately.

She told journalists: “It is a legal obligation, not a counterpart, our request is the same - we want them at home, not close to home.

“We will continue to demand that they be released with the same intensity.”

Meanwhile, sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has turned down an offer to lead the Catalan Democratic Party (PDeCAT) – one of the main pro-indy groups in the parliament. He is in Germany awaiting court decision on his extradition to Spain and said he had to focus on his legal defence.