Spain pardons jailed Catalan independence leaders

PM Pedro Sánchez said the move was a 'message of the will for social harmony.'

Spain pardons jailed Catalan independence leaders

The Spanish government has approved partial pardons for nine jailed leaders of the failed 2017 Catalan independence bid.

The leaders’ prison sentences have been commuted, but they remain banned from holding public office, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Tuesday. The pardons are conditional on no serious crimes being committed.

The decision had already been trailed by Sánchez in a speech on Monday in Barcelona, where he said: “I am convinced that taking nine people from prison, who represent thousands of Catalans, is a resounding message of the will for social harmony in Spanish democracy.”

The nine — Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Carme Forcadell, Joaquim Forn, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart — were convicted of sedition in 2019.

Prominent pro-independence groups and figures were not satisfied with the move, however. “You cannot pardon a non-existent crime, much less hope that this fact will be the solution to the Catalan conflict,” the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence activist group, said.

Romeva, one of those pardoned, tweeted on Tuesday: “Pardoning 9 people will not hide the repression they continue to apply against hundreds of pro-independence activists. We will not give in: amnesty and self-determination!”

The pardons are also unpopular with the opposite side. Carlos Carrizosa Torres, spokesperson for the anti-independence Ciudadanos party in the parliament of Catalonia, said on Tuesday that the pardons “will not favor coexistence” but rather prolong the conflict.

Right-wing politicians condemned the pardons. “This betrayal cannot be forgiven, [Sánchez’s] days are numbered. People can put up with other things, but this is unbearable,” Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the conservative president of Madrid, said in interviews on Spanish outlets esRadio and Telecinco.

The far-right Vox is already preparing a complaint against Sánchez’ Cabinet for misuse of power, ABC reported. People’s Party leader Pablo Casado announced his party would also challenge the pardons.

Spain’s Supreme Court had advised against the move.

The EU’s General Court this month froze a move to strip Carles Puigdemont — the former Catalan leader who fled to Belgium in 2017 — and two other Catalan MEPs facing sedition charges in Spain of their parliamentary immunity.