TRANSFERRING Catalonia’s political prisoners from Madrid to jails closer to home is not a political concession but a legal obligation, according to the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), which has called for their release and the case against them to be dropped.

As six of the nine were moved to jails in Catalonia and transfers of the remaining three were being processed, the ANC said it was a right under Spanish law that had been delayed for too long.

It demanded the release of all nine politicians and civic leaders as thousands joined pro-freedom marches in the towns and villages closest to the prisons.

Speaking outside Lledoners prison, where the men are being held, ANC chair, Elisenda Paluzie, said that as well as demanding their release, the rally was also calling for the case to be shelved.

She described it as an “ignominy” in the Spanish and European judiciary because it violated individual rights.

“Only the Catalan Republic will break the locks of these prisons and open the door through which our exiles may come back home,” she said. “Nobody will stop us until we achieve this.”

At Puig de les Basses, where two female former ministers are being detained, ANC vice-chair, Pep Cruanyes, called for the unconditional release of all the political prisoners, “without any charges”.

He was critical of the courts: “The Supreme High Court and the National High Court are ad hoc courts which have invented offences in order to deny people their freedom.

“The Spanish State is an authoritarian state that violates fundamental rights by applying political repression.”

The transfer to Catalan institutions of Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull – all of whom are still in Estremera Prison in Madrid – is expected to be confirmed in the coming days, a move that is likely to see further rallies at the jails.

One is being organised by the ANC and other civic groups next Saturday, which is likely to see tens of thousands of people march through the streets Barcelona.