ONE of the most recognisable faces in the Catalan independence movement, Jordi Cuixart, is stepping down as president of the grassroots organisation Omnium Cultural.

He has led the organisation that promotes Catalan culture since 2015, including from October 2017 to last June, when he was jailed for sedition over the 2017 indyref, which Spain ruled illegal.

Cuixart, who has previously written for The National from inside prison, said it was time for “new leadership” at Omnium.

He said: “Catalan society is capable of creating new leaders. Because of this, we need to make room for them to flourish because that is probably the best thing we can do for the country.”

Neither Cuixart, not his deputy Marcel Mauri, are standing for re-election, and he will likely be succeeded by Xavier Antich if Omnium members back his candidacy.

Both Cuixart and Mauri have ruled out entering politics.

The outgoing president was one of nine people jailed over the indyref. He and Jordi Sanchez, who led the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) had stood atop a Spanish police car in a bid to quell a protest outside the economy ministry in Barcelona.

From inside prison in October 2018, before his trial, Cuixart wrote: “When videos surfaced of that day showing that I was asking the peaceful protesters to go home, the Spanish government switched the charges from sedition to rebellion.

“Now I am accused of inciting people to participate in the October 1 referendum and urging them to block the Spanish police as they violently went into polling stations to stop the vote … Spain embarked down a dangerous path some years ago: one of increasingly cutting back individual and collective human rights to the point where they have now reached intolerable limits.

“The EU is focusing on Poland and Hungary in this regard but would do well to look with a more critical eye to Spain’s growing democracy deficit too.”

He was among those held in pre-trial detention for two years, and his nine-year sentence was condemned by the Council of Europe and rights groups such as Amnesty International and others.