I HAVE been imprisoned by the Spanish state since October 16, 2017 for exercising fundamental rights. And three years on, I have not renounced either my ideals or my life. While in prison I got married and had another child. I have learned to pass on to my family the importance of never losing hope. It is hard, but as an activist I accept my status as a political prisoner. Every day I spend behind bars has meaning because I am also fighting for their future.

I have been sentenced to nine years in prison for a crime of sedition that does not exist anywhere else in Europe, for organising a demonstration in September 2017 and for defending the right of self-determination for Catalonia.

In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet called for allowing home arrest for prisoners of conscience around the world, but instead I spend 23 hours of every day in quarantine in a cell measuring eight square metres.

READ MORE: Spanish judges will hear Catalan independence leaders’ appeals

The Spanish authorities want me to apologise for exercising the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. My case is now before the Spanish constitutional court, but I know we can never expect justice from politicised courts. This is why

I am waiting to exhaust the domestic legal process as soon as possible so I may argue for acquittal before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Spanish government led by Pedro Sanchez describes itself as “the most progressive in history” yet, like his predecessor Rajoy, he tolerates judicial persecution of dissidents. And King Philip VI – son of a former head of state facing corruption claims and who has fled to the UAE – cheers him on.

Nine Catalan pro-independence politicians and activists were condemned to 100 years in prison last year. We are part of a collective proceeding in which more than 2800 people are suffering reprisals. For example: as a member of the European Parliament and exile, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont can now travel throughout the EU without any restrictions, but cannot enter Spain.

If he were really a common criminal this would be unthinkable. Amnesty is, therefore, the only possible solution to put an end to the last vestiges of authoritarianism in western Europe.

The EU authorities insist this is an internal matter for Spain, while the country ignores the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders and the World Organisation Against Torture, all of which have called for our release. The EU’s double standard when compared to Belarus or other outside conflicts is shameful. Instead of protecting social, political and cultural activism to improve democracies, Brussels continues to legitimise the deterrent effect on public protest.

I am president of Omnium Cultural, an NGO which had 90,000 members when I went into prison and now has more than 180,000. Polls show that 80% of Catalan society rejects the repression and calls for a democratic solution to a political conflict.

By imprisoning us, they wanted to make the Catalan sovereignty movement give up on the right to self-determination, but we have turned their repression into an international tribune for our non-violent struggle.

We will continue to promote the value of dialogue against hate, and to struggle for a society where diversity is seen as a source of richness.

Defending human rights in Catalonia is the same as defending them around Europe and the world. And even if I am not released from prison until 2026, my commitment to democracy and freedom will remain intact. As I said to the judge during my trial: we will do it again, we will exercise the fundamental rights condemned by Spanish justice again.