YOU have been in prison for over two years and are “allowed” conjugal visits from your wife, but how do you both cope with the strain that puts on your family life?

Despite the injustice of my imprisonment, we’ve done our best to keep a normal family life and never give up hope and happiness. When one is in a situation like this, the only way forward is fighting against discouragement ... Not only for ourselves, but for the whole movement we represent and for the human rights defenders all over the world who suffer even worse conditions than we do.

So, for me, one of the ways to overcome this deprivation of liberty is by keeping a strong relationship with my wife, children, relatives and friends but also with the prison-mates who I learn from every day. I also make the most of my daily eight-minute call; I make the most of the few visits I’m allowed to have. We are really thankful for all the support we receive from outside and thanks to this and to personal growth (through meditation, pottery, reading, writing) I’m keeping my morale high ... Despite repression and prison, I have no fear; I feel free.

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Spanish authorities described your trial as “fair”, but the rest of the world saw it rather differently – did you ever think the result might go in your favour?

From the very beginning, we understood we were facing a political trial and whatever the outcome was, we would be severely punished. The Spanish powers needed to teach a lesson to the Catalan people who dared to disobey government threats and decided to go and vote in the self-determination referendum in October 2017. Thus, we decided not to defend ourselves during the trial but to accuse the Supreme Court of violating our human rights, something that Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes also did in the 20th century.

I’ve been sentenced to nine years in prison for “sedition”. But ... why was I prosecuted? Basically for having led, along with Jordi Sanchez, a peaceful demonstration on September 20, 2017 in favour of the referendum. In other words, I’m in prison for having exercised human rights such as freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest, as Amnesty International recently made clear.

These are rights protected by international law and also by the Spanish Constitution. Not only was this trial an unfair legal process, but also set a worrying precedent for the future exercise of these rights in Spain and all over Europe. The anti-eviction movement or protests like Extinction Rebellion can be treated now as “seditious” actions.

Also, many of the evidences and witnesses that our defence wanted to present were dismissed by the Supreme Court. These would have proven that we always acted peacefully and that the only violence came from the Spanish police, who injured 1000 voters.

The National: Jordi Cuixart, left, with Jordi SanchezJordi Cuixart, left, with Jordi Sanchez

How did you feel when Amnesty International (and others) called for you to be freed?

I’m very pleased with the support and solidarity of Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations ... What is more, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) has also called on Spanish authorities to release me and other political prisoners because they understand that we always acted in exercise of our human rights.

They are paramount for us, without them Spain wouldn’t feel the same pressure. Unfortunately, so far the Spanish government has ignored all the calls to put an end to the repression of Catalan social activists and politicians. We are sure, though, that the European Court of Human Rights will take all these opinions into consideration, and eventually, condemn Spain.

READ MORE: Amnesty International calls for release of two Catalan leaders

You are a cultural figure not a politician – yet you told Politico: “I haven’t come to prison to fight to leave the prison ... my priority is the solution of the political situation.” Would you not be better able to do that from outside?

Of course I would prefer to be free and to campaign for what I stand for freely. Keeping us in prison is a nonsense in democracy.

So, what we have already asked the Supreme Court is to declare the verdict null and void ... to free us immediately as the UNWGAD and Amnesty International have urged.

I don’t want us all to be pardoned because that would imply that we were guilty of some kind of wrongdoing and we didn’t commit any crime.

In the meantime, I think the best I can do is use prison as a loudspeaker to denounce Spain’s human rights violations.

What is the end game? Can this be solved peacefully?

The political conflict between Catalonia and Spain can only be solved through political dialogue.

Politicians have the obligation to sit and talk and find a way to overcome the deadlock. On the other hand, civil society will keep on pressing through campaigns and mobilisation as it does all over the democratic world. We advocate for non-violent actions to press every actor in this conflict towards a resolution, including civil disobedience ... if it is necessary.

You are a non-politician at the centre of a highly-charged political stalemate – how supportive are your family and friends?

I wouldn’t be in such good spirits if it weren’t for them. My family, my friends, Omnium’s members [Omnium is a non-profit cultural group with over 180,000 members of which Cuixart is president] ... they are my world, they give me hope. I think that the Spanish crackdown on the pro-self-determination movement has actually given us more strength.

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If Spain were to grant Catalonia an “official” independence referendum how confident are you that people would vote to leave Spain?

Although I’m a pro-independence supporter, the organisation I lead, Omnium Cultural, is in favour of the right to self-determination ... what we are advocating is for the right of the Catalan people to vote Yes or No to independence. Two years ago, Omnium didn’t campaign for Yes in the Catalan referendum, we campaigned for the right to vote under the “Call for Democracy” slogan. So, I’m also advocating for the rights of those who want to keep the union with Spain. It’s a matter of democracy, unfortunately for the Spanish powers Spain’s unity is way more important than democracy ... That said, and from a personal point of view, I’m certain that if we Catalans have the chance to vote in a binding referendum we’ll seize the opportunity.

The National: Crowds watch Cuixart's trial at the Arc de Triomf in BarcelonaCrowds watch Cuixart's trial at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona

Short of Catalan independence, what would be an acceptable outcome for you?

If the Spanish and the Catalan representatives do their work and agree on the terms of a political solution for Catalonia, it should be for the Catalans to ratify this solution in a vote. We can’t imagine a political solution that is not ratified by the citizens.

Would you go through all this again – having experienced the hardships of the past two-plus years?

I said it during the trial and I say it now: We’ll do it again. And when I say I’ll do it again I mean exercising human rights ... Civil rights weren’t achieved from a sofa and one can’t take democracy for granted.

Our parents and grandparents painstakingly fought for democracy, now it’s our turn to leave a better world for our sons and grandsons.

READ MORE: Catalan prisoners can now take case to European Court of Human Rights

What message would you give to your supporters?

The pro-self-determination movement in Catalonia is part of a bigger struggle in the world: the fight for a real democracy. In the last few years, there has been an awakening of populism and far-right movements in the world ... We’ve seen how big powers in the world are turning their back on democratic principles.

And we should, of course, be worried. But democrats all are fighting to defend democracy and human rights. In Hong Kong, Chile, Lebanon, in Catalonia, and in Scotland. Giving power to the people is the essence of democracy. And my message is clear: we shall overcome, it’s a matter of time.

The Justice Department has recommended categorising the nine prisoners as “segon grau”, meaning one could apply for 36 days of leave from prison per year after serving a quarter of one’s sentence – how important is this?

This is a smoke screen that tries to distract from what’s really relevant: all Catalan political prisoners should be freed immediately.

“Segon grau” measures are rights that all prisoners have at their disposal, it’s not any kind of privilege. Anyway, as a political prisoner, I assume my deeds and the consequences but never the legitimacy of the sentence.