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Catalan pro-independence activists pardoned by the central government, but not amnestied


The President of the Spanish government has decided to pardon the nine Catalan pro-independence activists in prison since October 2019 for attempted sedition. A first step towards reconciliation.



In his speech in Barcelona, Pedro Sánchez took a first step towards reconciliation between the Catalans and the central government (photo: Moncloa)
In his speech in Barcelona, Pedro Sánchez took a first step towards reconciliation between the Catalans and the central government (photo: Moncloa)
SPAIN. Imprisoned since October 2019 for attempted sedition, nine Catalan pro-independence activists* will be released from prison.
During the autumn of 2017, they had, with the regional governor Carles Puigdemont, participated in the organisation of a referendum on self-determination, forbidden by the justice system, and then proclaimed the independence of Catalonia, transformed into a Republic. The right-wing government of the time then dismissed the regional government and placed the autonomous region under tutelage.
Pedro Sánchez, President of the Spanish government, granted them a pardon on Tuesday 22 June 2021 in the Council of Ministers. The announcement was made the day before during a speech in Barcelona. "The government has chosen to open the way to reconciliation and reunion," he said. The nine pro-independence activists, who were sentenced to between nine and thirteen years in prison, will therefore be exempted from the rest of their sentence. However, this does not mean that they have been granted amnesty. To know their release date, they will have to wait for the Supreme Court - the author of the sentence - to recalculate the sentences served and the remaining ones according to the pardoned offences.
 
"The pardon is a fully legal and constitutional measure that the law authorises for reasons of fairness, justice and public utility", said the President of the Spanish Government. "I am convinced that the release from prison of these nine people, who represent thousands of Catalans, is a resounding message of Spanish democracy's desire for harmony and coexistence (...) the expectations of the future outweigh the grievances of the past", he said.

Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès to meet soon

The separatists continue to demand a total amnesty. And they have made this clear several times by disrupting Pedro Sánchez's speech at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
 
For the president of the Spanish Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, "this decision does not bring a solution to the general cause opened for independence. It is a partial and incomplete measure." Demanding an amnesty law and a referendum on self-determination from 2023 as a "fundamental solution to the conflict", he was not present, as were all the members of his regional ministers, during the speech of the President of the Spanish government. However, Pere Aragonès concludes that the Spanish government admits that "defending and working for Catalonia to be able to freely decide its freedom can never be a crime."
 
Although the Catalan Socialist Party (affiliated to the ruling PSOE party) won the February 2021 early regional elections with 23% of the vote, Catalan pro-independence parties have strengthened their presence in the regional executive. And one of them, Pere Aragonès, was elected president.
 
In the coming weeks, he will officially meet Pedro Sánchez at the Moncla, the seat of government in Madrid. "We do not expect those who defend independence to abandon their ideals, because those who defend the union will never abandon theirs either. The only thing we ask is that the constitutional pact be respected. Outside of loyalty and democratic legality, there is no place for politics", insisted the President of the Spanish Government in the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Opposition from the right and the left

For his part, the president of the Murcia executive, Fernando López Miras, blamed the government for the announcement. "It is not possible for Pedro Sánchez to undermine the separation of powers and weaken the rule of law simply for his own personal and political interests", said the member of the Popular Party (PP - Conservatives). The abstention of the pro-independence ERC (Catalan Republican Left) allowed the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) to retain power in the January 2020 vote of confidence, which it won by just two votes.
 
Fernando López Miras, a member of the Popular Party (PP- Conservatives), said that "it is not possible for Pedro Sánchez and the central government to pardon criminals who have tried to break up, who have attacked the unity of Spain and who have embezzled public funds.
 
In Galicia, Néstor Rego, MP for the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BGN - Left claiming autonomy) speaks of a "clearly insufficient gesture." In his view, "the exercise of a democratic right, such as the result of the ballot box, cannot be considered a crime." Néstor Rego also calls for respect for "the democratic will of the people, including in the exercise of the right to referendum and the right to self-determination."
 
Maddalen Iriarte, spokesperson for the Euskal Herria Bildu (EH Bildu - Patriotic Left) party in the Basque Parliament, is more measured, describing the pardons granted to the Catalan pro-independence party as "a further step”. She said she had "no doubt" that "the Catalans will be able to decide their future freely and democratically."
 
In his Barcelona speech, Pedro Sánchez concluded: "I cannot conceive of a new Spain without a new Catalonia at the forefront. I cannot conceive of Spain without Catalonia. Nor can Catalonia be understood without the rest of Spain. This is my firmest commitment, which I have the honour of representing here today before Catalan civil society."

 
* Oriol Junqueras (former vice-president of Catalonia and former regional minister of economy and finance), Raül Romeva (minister of foreign affairs and institutional relations of the Generalitat of Catalonia), Jordi Turull (minister of the presidency and spokesperson of the Generalitat), Dolors Bassa (minister of labour and social affairs of Catalonia), Carme Forcadell (former President of the Parliament of Catalonia), Joaquin Forn (former Minister of the Interior of the Generalitat), Josep Rull (former Minister of Territory and Sustainability of the Generalitat), Jordi Sánchez (former President of the Catalan National Assembly), Jordi Cuixart (former leader of the NGO Òmnium Cultural).

Frédéric Dubessy


Tuesday, June 22nd 2021



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