A LAWYER representing two of the highest-profile Catalan political prisoners has said their continued incarceration ahead of their trial has prompted an upsurge in support for the cause.

In an exclusive interview with The National, Andreu Van den Eynde – who is acting for former vice-president Oriol Junqueras and Raul Romeva, the former Catalan foreign affairs spokesperson – said a normal day saw him overwhelmed with messages about the case.

READ MORE: Questions asked after London event adds Spanish unionist to panel

“They really have a lot of public support – yellow ribbons, demonstrations outside the prisons, posters and never-ending messages … but these things go up and down, so we don’t know what the trial will trigger, if people will lose interest or not,” he said.

“Today it seems the Catalan independence movement is stronger than ever, there’s lots of support here.”

Many of the nine former members of the Catalan government and civic leaders have been held for more than a year, and to date there has only been speculation about when their trials will start.

Van den Eynde has now written to Spain’s Supreme Court complaining about the delay in notifying them of a start date, which he thought was a deliberate tactic.

“Last year the journalists started saying the trial would 100% start in October, making us nervous. Then November, December and January, so in the end it is a deliberate strategy, having us uninformed with uncertainty that makes us nervous.

“I don’t know who, but someone is trying to do this on purpose.”

However, he was sure they would be moved tomorrow from Catalan prisons to establishments in Madrid, where the trials will be held.

Van den Eynde said the prisoners seemed even more confident than their lawyers and needed their day in court.

“I’m a criminal lawyer and I’ve seen lots of prisoners, and there’s this moment after some months of jail where the inmate really adapts to that prison scenario. They adapted months ago, and they are really strong, and I guess this forthcoming trial gives them more energy because they really need to face a trial ... So they really want to start and finish this and face the court. They are confident.”

Many words have been written and broadcast about the legality, or otherwise, of holding a referendum in Spain.

Van den Eynde said the Spanish government made a “clear decision in 2005” that decriminalised the holding of referenda: “They changed the criminal code saying literally that the holding of a referendum can never be a criminal offence.

“The only thing we know for sure is that holding a referendum, even if it’s against Spanish law, is not a criminal offence. That’s crystal clear.”

The most serious charge facing the prisoners is rebellion, which carries a sentence of 30 years.

Under Spanish law, for a rebellion charge to stick, a level of violence must be used by the accused, although moves have been made to annul that requirement.

Van den Eynde said the charges were a “fake” mechanism the establishment was using to deflate the movement after the 2014 advisory poll saw majority support for independence: “Something changed in Spain, because they started seeing the pro-independence movement was really pushing forward and becoming the majority.

“Then they started designing a response to that dissident political movement that could really smash it down.

“Rebellion is something used to spread fear, but at the same time it’s the only offence in the criminal code that allows a court to suspend politicians from office ... the rebellion charges are the way they can smash this movement.”