A FORMERLY imprisoned Catalan politician and the speaker for Catalonia’s parliament have been elected as party presidents of the Junts per Catalunya party, taking up the role once held by exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Jordi Turull, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2019 for his involvement in Catalonia’s 2017 independence reference but pardoned last year, was elected as Junts president alongside parliamentary speaker Laura Borràs at this week’s general assembly of the party in France’s Argelès-sur-Mer.

Borràs and Turull have both called for unity within the party, which the latter has described as “a political force with diverse people.” Speaking in May, Borràs emphasised: “We want to be all together to go forward.”

READ MORE: Catalan media expresses envy at pro-independence victory in Scottish elections

The pair replace the pro-independence activist Jordi Sànchez, who was imprisoned alongside Turull, and Carles Puigdemont, whose immunity from prosecution was reinstated by the European Court of Justice last month, alongside fellow Catalan MEPs Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, who are still sought by Spanish authorities.

Puigdemont announced that he would be leaving the leadership of Junts in early May, writing in a letter to party members published on Twitter: “I will not present my candidacy of the renewel of the presidency of the party”.

Puigdemont said that Junts “needs a more involved presidency” from someone who “participates fully in the political decisions that have to be taken”.

Addressing Junts activists at the general assembly, Puigdemont criticised the Catalan Government for continuing to seek negotiations with the Spanish Government over a second independence referendum, saying: "By not recognizing the reality principle, they want to benefit the well-being of their cadres, but it has catastrophic consequences for citizens.”

READ MORE: Catalans look to Scotland as example on how to hold an independence referendum

In the Catalan elections in February last year, Junts behind the Republican Left of Catalonia for the first time, and subsequently became a junior partner in the coalition government of Pere Aragonès.

Relations between the Catalan Government and the minority administration of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez – who has often relied upon the votes of pro-independence Catalan parties – collapsed earlier this year, following the revelation that numerous high-profile figures within the Catalan independence movement had been the subject of phone-hacking.

In May, the erstwhile director of Spain’s National Intelligence Service Paz Esteban was removed from her position, after admitting to a parliamentary committee hearing that the agency had hacked the phones of several Catalan activists with judicial permission.