CATALONIA’s political prisoners, incarcerated for months in jails in Madrid more than 500 miles from their families, were last night settling into institutions closer to their loved ones.

Former vice president Oriol Junqueras, ex-adviser Raül Romeva, Together for Catalonia (JxCAT) MP and former leader of the Catalan National Congress, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the head of Òmnium Cultural, arrived at Lledoners prison in northern Catalonia, yesterday afternoon.

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They were expected to be joined last night by former ministers Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull.

Former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and ex-minister Dolors Bassa arrived later at Puig de les Basses prison, in Figueres.

Once inside the jail, the politicians were subject to medical and psychological checks before heading to their individual cells.

The entrance to the penitentiary centre was decorated with yellow ribbons, also painted on the road, as a group of demonstrators held banners calling for the release of the political prisoners. Further protests are expected at the prisons this weekend.

Quim Torra, the Catalan president, was expected to visit the male prisoners last night, but made clear that their transfer was not enough.

In a joint statement with Speaker Roger Torrent, he said: “We won’t give up until you’re home. Today the distancing is over, but not the injustice or the abomination of having peaceful, honourable democrats locked up.”

He said the months of incarceration had been a “shame for all democrats in Catalonia, Spain and Europe”. It was, he added: “An intolerable outrage, an extra punishment for families.”

The pro-union Ciutadans (Citizens) Party and the People’s Party (PP) had claimed the move was part of a secret deal between the pro-independence lobby and Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, for their support in in ousting PP leader Mariano Rajoy as Spanish president.

But Torra hit back: “The transfer is no political gesture and is part of no negotiation with Madrid.”

Torrent, who was last night meeting the female prisoners, hit out at the “violation of rights” they had undergone, and added: “We won’t rest until you’re home, with your families, not close to home.”

Turull, who has been in jail for 134 days, criticised the leaking of a video of three of his colleagues secretly recorded in prison in Madrid.

He told the Catalan News Agency: “It’s disgraceful that they could be secretly filmed, without authorisation, and that some would even buy those images. But don’t be fooled. What is hard from prison is not what is physical, it’s what affects your soul: you are deprived from freedom, far and separated from your loved ones, you live in a constant monotony, in a non-desired solitude. Prison is hard on your soul, not your body.”