THE fate of Catalan political leaders jailed over the 2017 independence referendum could have a role to play in the continuing dialogue between Spain’s Socialists (PSOE) and smaller political parties to have Pedro Sanchez sworn in as prime minister.

Reports in some Catalan media suggest that the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which is due to meet the PSOE again next week, could push for an easing of the sentence on its president Oriol Junqueras, who was jailed for 13 years for sedition.

Spain’s penal system has four penitentiary “degrees” corresponding with the differing regimes which apply during imprisonment.

At the moment, the leaders are all jailed under the first degree, which is a closed regime.

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The second degree allows them to gain benefits in prison and the third is described as “open” where they only spend their nights in jail. The fourth is probation.

Three other ERC politicians are also imprisoned – Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, and ex-ministers Dolors Bassa and Raul Romeva – but the measure could also impact their Together for Catalonia (JxCat) colleagues, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull.

The Sanchez executive has already agreed the basis of a coalition with the left-wing party Podem, but it still needs the backing of others to ensure his investiture, and while the prisoners’ freedom is not the ERC’s only objective, it is most certainly one of its priorities.

A decision on the third degree would be made by the penitentiary board, but this can be opposed by the public prosecutor and judges.

The ERC believes allowing the leaders some freedom – albeit restricted – could reduce tensions in Catalonia, but a decision is not in the gift of the PSOE.

The National: Oriol JunquerasOriol Junqueras

Union leaders have already visited Junqueras in prison asking him to support Sanchez’s investiture, but Spanish government spokesperson, Isabel Celaa, would not be drawn on the significance of the visit: “They are free to do it and it is not for us to make assessments about it.”

Meanwhile, as the grassroots Omnium Cultural launched Act for Catalonia – a campaign to reach 10 million Europeans by persuading the leaders of the UK, France and Germany to back a political resolution to the Catalan crisis – an illustration of its jailed leader Jordi Cuixart, behind bars has appeared on the front page of Politico magazine’s European edition.

In a phone interview with the publication, Cuixart again stressed that while he did not organise the referendum that led to his nine-year sentence for sedition, he could still spend many years behind bars.

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“This is not going to be wrapped up in two or three years,” he said.

Cuixart described the jailing of himself and fellow cultural leader Jordi Sanchez, who heads the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), as “something without comparison in Western Europe”.

Yet, despite the incarceration, he remains upbeat: “Spirituality is a reality in jail. The travel is not so much outside, but inside yourself.

“I’m not going to renounce happiness, I’m trying to live the fullest with what I can.”