The man who led Catalonia's push for independence from Spain in October 2017 says he hopes to return home one day as a "free man", and remains committed to working towards full autonomy for the region.

Former separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, has been living in self-imposed exile in Brussels since Spanish prosecutors brought charges of rebellion and sedition against him, over Catalonia's push for independence.

Speaking to RTÉ News, he described himself as a European citizen who was free to travel anywhere in Europe, or the world, except Spain.

Nine members of Mr Puigdemont's former regional cabinet were jailed on charges of rebellion.

They are due to be transferred to Madrid on Friday to face trial in the Supreme Court in the coming weeks. If convicted, they could be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years behind bars.

Mr Puigdemont dismissed the charges against his former colleagues, and said that organising a referendum was not a crime. He described his former ministers as "political prisoners".

Several other pro-independence leaders are still wanted by Spanish authorities after leaving the country to avoid being jailed.

Former Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, used constitutional powers to introduce direct rule over Catalonia after the region's parliament declared independence in the wake of a referendum in October 2017.

Mr Puigdemont said dialogue with Madrid was still needed to ease tensions in the region.

He said his only regret was initially suspending the declaration of independence, to allow for talks with the Spanish government. 

Mr Puigdemont was in Dublin for a debate on independence, nationalism and democracy at Trinity College.