AS the hunger strike by jailed pro-independence leaders in Catalonia enters its third week, one of their number has said the Catalan crisis “should speak to all democrats”, as he urged Europe and the world not to turn their backs.

And, in an exclusive interview with The National from Lledoners prison, Joaquim Forn, thanked Scots for their support.

“The fact that in Europe, in the 21st century, we are talking about exiled and imprisoned politicians should worry the European states and citizens,” he said. “The crisis being lived in Catalunya should speak to all democrats. The debate about liberties is very much alive in Europe and the world, so we cannot live turning our backs as if this debate would not concern us.”

Forn, who was Catalan interior minister, has been in so-called preventative detention since October last year. He said the prisoners were encouraged by the backing they receive daily, as groups of supporters gather outside the gates of Lledoners.

“These months have been very tough, and we have been able to overcome them thanks to the support from our families, and the social mobilisation that there is in Catalunya,” Forn said.

“From the prison’s courtyard we can hear very often the chants and the shouts of support. Without this great support it would have been more difficult to bear the situation.”

Forn also acknowledged messages of support from Scotland. “We have received hundreds of letters and postcards,” he said. “We cannot answer them all which is why I want to take this opportunity to thank their gesture.”

Forn said those on hunger strike – one of whom, Jordi Turull, is now in the prison infirmary – were “clearly worried” about their health and were checked daily by prison medics.

However, he remained optimistic about their trial: “We are not in the pretrial proceedings anymore, so now the accusations need to be argued with proof ... I have not lost faith and I truly think ... the only possible sentence is the absolution.”