TWO of Catalonia’s jailed independence leaders have said they are ready to defend the legitimacy of the October 2017 referendum and will not hide their roles in helping to organise it.

In an interview with Catalan online newspaper Nacio Digital, former vice-president Oriol Junqueras and former foreign minister Raul Romeva said one of the three key points in their defence would be that Spain decriminalised the calling of referenda in 2005. Junqueras said he expected to be convicted and sentenced to a jail term, but he would not give up the independence cause.

“Ultimately I am happy, as I will be able to explain to Spaniards and Europeans that we have not committed any crime and that organising a referendum is not punishable in the penal code,” he said.

“We are keen on trial, it’s an opportunity for us. We have been muted for a year and, when you’re right, it’s a pleasure to be able to explain.”

Romeva said the defence team would cite as examples the two referenda in Quebec and the Canadian Supreme Court’s ruling that the people alone would decide on the province’s political regime and legal status, with a majority of 50 plus one sufficient for victory in a plebiscite.

He added that the prosecuted politicians will highlight that the real crime was prohibiting such a vote and that a solution to the crisis had to come from politics and not the courts.

“Jailing us will not only fail to make the problem disappear, but with our appearances before the court we will put a necessary focus on the conflict,” said Romeva.

“We are preparing for it knowing that the trial will not be fair. We know what we are doing.”

The pair will not enter their trial – expected to start later this month – as Catalan independentists, but as democrats, to appeal to people who may not be pro-independence or even republican.

Romeva is adamant that he has committed no crime and is perfectly frank about his role in the indyref after being elected on a legitimate manifesto that included independence.

“Yes, I am responsible for having organised a referendum and I do not regret doing it, I vindicate it,” he said. “The path will not be easy, fast or painless, but it is irreversible.”

Defence lawyers will also argue that refusing to allow a referendum was a crime on the part of Spain.

“Therefore, I accuse the state of committing crimes such as the ban on meeting, going against the freedom of expression or violence by the [October 1 referendum day] 1-0, police and beyond,” said Romeva.

The trial is expected to be broadcast live, which Junqueras said gave them a powerful tool with which to directly address Catalan, Spanish and European society: “The world must see that our cause is peaceful and democratic and that we want to solve a political problem by a political route.

“Nobody is more independent than me and … my obligation is to make it possible.”

Romeva said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez could follow his predecessor Mariano Rajoy’s actions and worsen the problem, or solve it as former PM David Cameron did with the Scottish independence referendum: “Despite not being in favour of independence, being a democrat.

“I urge Sanchez with humility, respect and fraternity to assume the political dimension of this matter.”