25 Jun, 2024 @ 17:46
2 mins read

Catalan amnesty law: Regional High Court issues first pardons under controversial legislation to former interior minister and police officer

Protesters hold a large flag for the independence of Catalonia during the demonstration. Called by the civil society organization Assemblea Nacional Catalana, hundreds of people have demonstrated along Vía Laietana to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the unilateral Referendum of October 1, 2017 which was harshly repressed by the security forces of the Spanish state. (Photo by Paco Freire / SOPA Images/Sipa USA) *** Local Caption *** 48727188

THE regional High Court in Catalunya has issued the first pardons under a controversial amnesty law, which was recently passed by the central government and will benefit politicians, police officers and members of the public facing prosecution for their role in the region’s independence drive. 

The former interior chief in the Catalan regional parliament, Miquel Buch, on Tuesday became the first person to be granted the amnesty, effectively quashing the four-and-a-half-year jail term he had been given, as well as a 20-year ban from public office. 

Buch had been found guilty of misuse of public funds after he hired a regional police officer in 2018 to act as a bodyguard for Carles Puigdemont, the former premier of the Catalunya region who fled Spain in 2017 to avoid prosecution for his role in the independence drive and has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium ever since.

The second person to be pardoned today by the Regional High Court is the officer himself, Lluis Escola, who had been given a four-year sentence.

Read more: Carles Puigdemont accuses Pedro Sanchez of ‘blackmail’: Spain’s Prime Minister promises Catalunya additional funding if Socialist ally becomes regional president

A demonstration in Barcelona last year to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the illegal referendum on Catalan independence. (Photo by Paco Freire / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

The sentences were passed in September of last year, according to a report from Spanish daily El Pais, and had been appealed by lawyers for Buch and Escola. 

Later on Tuesday, the same court pardoned three youngsters who had been convicted for taking part in street disturbances back in 2020 related to the independence drive.

Political solution

The amnesty law was definitively approved by lawmakers in Congress at the end of May, and was a further step in Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s efforts to find a political solution to the tensions between Catalunya and the rest of Spain. 

The measure was vehemently opposed by right-wing parties such as the Partido Popular (PP) and Vox, and had prompted several large demonstrations across Spain before its eventual approval. 

These parties claimed that Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was passing the law to cling onto power, given that he is governing in a minority and depends on the votes of pro-independence parties such as Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) to prop up his administration. 

The highest-profile beneficiary of the law is expected to be Puigdemont himself, although even if he is pardoned under the amnesty the decision still could be reversed under appeal by Spain’s top courts. 

Prosecutors have been seeking to link Puigdemont to 2019 riots organised by a group called Tsunami Democratic, a Catalan protest group. 

As these demonstrations took place at Barcelona’s airport, they could fall under terrorism offences, something that the amnesty law does not cover. 

Pro-independence drive peak

Parties such as Junts and ERC have been long fighting for independence from Spain, or at least a referendum on secession. 

The pro-independence drive peaked in 2017, when politicians and civic associations organised a referendum that the courts deemed to be illegal. 

Voters faced police violence on the day of the ballot, October 1, 2017, and despite widespread irregularities in the polling, the pro-independence leaders proclaimed that the people of Catalonia had chosen to secede from Spain.

The Catalan parliament subsequently passed a unilateral declaration of independence, prompting the central government to suspend the region’s powers, sack the administration of Puigdemont, and call new elections. 

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Famous hotel in Ibiza sells for a record €200million following months of negotiation
Previous Story

Famous hotel in Ibiza sells for a record €200million following months of negotiation

Court in Spain demands re-opening of legal probe into deadly Valencia fire that claimed 10 lives
Next Story

Court in Spain demands re-opening of legal probe into deadly Valencia fire that claimed 10 lives

Latest from Catalunya

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press