Looking for a way out of Catalonia’s impasse, the Spanish government has pardoned nine prisoner leaders of the Catalan independence movement. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his cabinet had approved the controversial clemency that he hoped to end past confrontations.
The government in Madrid wanted to “open a new era of dialogue and reconciliation and end division and confrontation forever,” Sanchez insisted. At first it was not certain when the victims would be released; According to media reports, this can happen very soon.
In 2019, nine prominent representatives of the independence movement were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison for attempting to separate Catalonia from Spain. In October 2017, the then Catalan regional government led by Carles Puigdemont held an independence referendum that was declared illegal by the judiciary, thus triggering the worst political crisis in Spain in decades.
Carles Puigdemont – Former Catalan regional boss followed an uncompromising course (archive image)
The central government cracked down on this and removed the regional government. Puigdemont and other leaders of the independence movement fled abroad. Other comrades-in-arms such as former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras were arrested. Two years later, like other leaders of the independence movement, he was sentenced to a long prison term by the Supreme Court.
53 percent rejected the apology
Pardons for slanderers have been a topic of contentious discussion in Spain for weeks. The Supreme Court, like most opposition parties, raised its voice against the apology. According to a recent survey, 53 percent of Spaniards nationwide oppose the release of nine Catalans. On the other hand, in Catalonia, two-thirds of the people interrogated.
Conservative critics accused Sánchez of wanting to secure his power through pardons, as his minority government in parliament in Madrid also depends on the support of Catalan independence advocates.
In October 2019, Catalans demonstrated in Barcelona for the release of separatist leaders
Spain’s prime minister is taking risks with this move as it is unclear whether he will actually facilitate dialogue between Madrid and the Catalan regional government. Pere Aragones, the new regional president of the left-wing ERC party, is following a more moderate course than the Puigdemont party and has already signaled its willingness to enter negotiations.
Scotland is a role model
But he is also asking Madrid to agree to a referendum on Catalonia’s self-determination based on the model of the Scottish referendum in 2014. However, the central government vehemently rejects it. At best, it would be willing to vote on a deal with Barcelona that would give the region broad autonomy.
noob/cue (AFP, dpa)
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