Nine Catalan separatist leaders have been behind bars for more than three-and-a-half years and their sentences expire in 2026. Nevertheless, the doors of his cell may soon open: Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wants to pardon imprisoned Catalan politicians for facilitating the resolution of the long-running conflict in Catalonia.
The separatists were convicted in 2017 of holding an illegal independence referendum and then declaring the separation of their territory from Spain. The prison sentence of nine to 13 years was criticized by the human rights organization Amnesty as disproportionate.
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With tensions between Madrid and Barcelona easing, the fact that Catalonia has a new prime minister who rejects unilateral moves toward independence and relies on talks with the Spanish government could help. “I want to do it like Scotland,” says the President of Catalonia, Pere Aragonese, who has just been elected by the regional parliament in Barcelona from the relatively moderate separatist party Escara Républicain (Republican Left).
Scotland had negotiated an independence referendum with the British government. In the 2014 vote, 55 percent of Scots voted against secession from the UK. “One moment is for punishment and the other for harmony,” says Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez.
Prime Minister wants to promote reconciliation with Catalonia
Now the time has come for reconciliation. Reconciliation between Catalans, divided into a probable and a separatist camp. and also reconciliation between Catalonia and the rest of the Spanish nation. Sanchez said: “We have to look to the future, learn from our mistakes and not get caught up in feelings of vengeance and retribution.”
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But Sanchez’s progressive government sees it as a step towards understanding what Spain’s conservative opposition calls treason. “The government is turning the right of grace into a coup for democracy,” criticizes opposition leader and head of the conservative People’s Party, Pablo Casado. The planned pardon to the separatists is on their knees, on which the minority government of the Socialists of Sánchez and the leftist Podemos party in the national parliament depend.
Surveys of pardon plans suggest that Sánchez is taking a risky path: within Catalonia, a large part of the population is in favor of pardons for separatist leaders. Outside of Catalonia, Sanchez cannot be sure of this apparent support. In several Spain-wide elections for the first time in years, conservatives are again ahead of socialist-oriented socialists.
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