SPAIN’S Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said he will propose pardons for nine jailed Catalan separatists at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, guided by this constitutional spirit of forgiveness, I will propose that the cabinet approve the pardon,” Mr Sanchez told an audience at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre de Liceu opera house on Monday, as some clapped and cheered.
Spain’s left-wing government hopes that by pardoning the nine separatists it will help diffuse tensions in Catalunya and open the way to dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
However, Mr Sanchez’s gesture has proved highly controversial, with most Spaniards opposing the move, according to a series of polls.
Some 63% of Spaniards said they were against granting pardons, while 25% were in favour and 6% were indifferent, according to a poll published last week for niusdiario.es, a Spanish online newspaper.
Some 25,000 people, including lawmakers from the conservative People’s Party, the far-right Vox and the centrist Ciudadanos party, held a demonstration against the pardons last week in Madrid.
In 2019, nine Catalan separatists were handed prison sentences of between nine and 13 years for the offence of sedition. Three others were found guilty of disobedience but were not jailed.
All were convicted over their roles in a 2017 independence referendum that was later declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court and a failed declaration of independence days later.
The failed bid to create a new state in the heart of Europe caused the worst political crisis in Spain since a failed military coup in 1981.
The partial pardons will set the nine politicians and activists free but they cannot take up office immediately. If they reoffend they will be sent back to jail.
Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who is a fugitive from Spanish justice and lives in Belgium, will not be pardoned. He is still wanted by Spanish courts, has not been convicted or served time behind bars.