Catalan separatist soon free.
The jailed Catalan separatist leaders are soon to receive pardons as part of a plan led by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
The nine leaders actively led the 2017 independence campaign and were convicted and jailed for sedition. Another three were found guilty of disobedience. There have been large protests against their pardoning but the government argues that this will help calm tensions.
Also read: Catalan separatists increase their majority
The Catalan separatists captured 50% of the overall vote in February, increasing their majority. Mr. Sanchez made the remarks at the Barcelona opera house where several hundred separatist supporters protested outside while demanding concessions. It was no surprise when one member in the audience began shouting “Independence” interrupting the speech for a few seconds.
Mr.Sanchez defended the move as “a clear message of concord”. He went on to affirm that he does not expect those seeking independence to “change their ideals”, but made it clear that “there is no path outside the law.” 300 people drawn from the Catalan civil society attended the meeting. Standing alongside the Catalan, Spanish, and EU flags, Mr. Sanchez ended his address by saying, “Catalonia, Catalans we love you.” Riot police manned the building outside as the protestors went on.
Reactions to the pardon
Spain experienced its biggest political crisis when the semi-autonomous Catalan region made a spirited push for independence forty years ago. Opponents are convinced that the government's only intention is to win political support.
Opposition towards the pardon is widespread with an opinion poll from Spanish newspaper El Mundo showing that 61% of the public opposes the move. The Spanish Supreme Court has also expressed displeasure in the decision but their position remains non-binding. The PM’s decision has met opposition from protestors who believe the leaders should have been jailed after holding an unauthorized referendum and making a short-lived declaration of independence. Many political rivals have outright criticized the PM for caving to the Catalan Republican Left party, on whom his minority government relies on for parliamentary support.
Quim Torra, a separatist leader, described the announcement by the Prime Minister as an “act of propaganda.” He is currently banned for holding public office after refusing to take down a pro-independence symbol from a government building.
Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan regional president who fled to Belgium to avoid arrest described the new move as “show-boating”.
Speaking to Reuters, Pere Aragones, Catalonia's separatist head, welcomed the pardons as a first gesture to start a dialog. He went on to demand amnesty for all those involved in the 2017 events - a move likely to affect 3000 people.
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