The Spanish government is preparing to pardon nine Catalan independence leaders | Spain

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Spain’s socialist-led government will approve on Tuesday the controversial pardons of the nine Catalan independence leaders who were jailed for their role in the illegal and unsuccessful attempt to separate from the rest of the country in October 2017.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has acknowledged the decision will anger many Spaniards, but insists the act of leniency is the best way to bring the country together and help find a political solution to the crisis persistent territorial.

Sánchez finally upheld the long-awaited decision during a speech in Barcelona on Monday in which he stressed the need for coexistence, magnanimity and a fresh start. The pardons will be formally approved at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

The nine – all members of the former Catalan government who had not fled Spain, including the president of the regional parliament and two activists – were convicted of sedition by the Supreme Court in 2019.

“I know that there are people who are against the step, and I understand and respect their reasons,” said the prime minister.

“But those of us who uphold graces also have their reasons – and in those reasons, our hopes for the future outweigh the grievances of the past. And when it comes to weighing political decisions, the future must count more than the past. “

Sánchez, who was heckled during the speech, added: “While we understand why some people are against it, the government has chosen to pave the way for reconciliation; to get back together. We believe these pardons lead that way and will give all of us a chance to start over and do better this time around. “

Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president who remains in Belgium after fleeing Spain to avoid arrest after organizing the referendum and the unilateral declaration of independence that followed, called Sánchez’s comments “show- boating “and said they” hadn’t cheated on anyone “.

Protesters carrying Catalan flags gather in front of the Barcelona opera house where Pedro Sánchez confirmed that nine jailed pro-independence leaders would be pardoned. Photograph: Thiago Prudencio / Dax / Zuma Wire / Rex / Shutterstock

Graces remain a bitterly divisive question. A recent poll for El Mundo found that 61% of those polled disagreed with the decision, while tens of thousands of people, including the leaders of the three right-wing Spanish parties, gathered in Madrid. at the beginning of the month to express their dissatisfaction.

The pardons were also challenged by the Supreme Court of Spain, which imposed prison terms ranging from nine to 13 years out of the nine. In a non-binding report, the court said the penalties were appropriate, and also noted that those convicted had not shown “the slightest evidence or trace of contrition.”

Sánchez’s political rivals have accused him of abandoning his previous anti-forgiveness stance and ceding to the independence party of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), on which his minority government depends for parliamentary support.

Pablo Casado, the leader of the Conservative People’s Party, also picked up on the lack of remorse shown by the nine jailed leaders.

“Sánchez used a leniency measure to launch a coup against legality, diverting the use of forgiveness to grant it, for the first time, to those who did not ask for it, who are not sorry and who also threatened to reoffend. ,” he said.

The confirmation of this decision also elicited a mixed response from the two largest pro-independence parties in Catalonia.

The new Catalan regional president, Pere Aragonès, who belongs to the ERC, called the pardons “the first step which must be followed by negotiations”, but said it was an “incomplete solution”. Aragonès once again called for an amnesty and a referendum by mutual agreement on the future of Catalonia.

Elsa Artadi, spokesperson for the radical party Ensemble pour la Catalunya founded by Puigdemont, described Sánchez’s speech at the Barcelona opera house as a “farce”, adding: “If he has a proposal, let him come to the [Catalan] parliament so that we can vote and decide whether this is a solution or not.

Despite the recriminations, however, Sánchez’s approach received a boost last week after the head of Spain’s main business lobby, CEOE, said the pardons “would be welcome if they helped bring things back. to normal ”.


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