World Spain pardons Catalan leaders over independence bid
Spain's right rallies against plan to pardon Catalan separatists
Right-wing protesters hit the streets of Madrid on Sunday to denounce controversial Spanish government plans to offer pardons to the jailed Catalan separatists behind the failed 2017 independence bid. But hardline separatists, among them the JxCat party of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont who fled Spain to avoid prosecution after the 2017 independence bid, have not given up on unilateralism, and have repeatedly demanded an amnesty for the prisoners -- which is not on the table.
The Spanish government has formally pardoned Catalan separatists convicted over a failed independence bid in 2017.
Nine leaders were imprisoned after being found guilty of sedition in 2019, while three others were convicted of disobedience but not jailed.
The pardons have sparked controversy in Spain and tens of thousands protested against the decision earlier this month.
But the government argues the move will help calm tensions over Catalonia.
The semi-autonomous region's drive for independence almost four years ago plunged Spain into its biggest political crisis in 40 years.
Thousands join protests against Catalan pardons
Right-wing Spanish parties say plans to pardon separatist leaders are a threat to national unity.Leaders of Spain's right-wing parties joined the demonstration against the pardoning of 12 separatists behind a failed independence attempt in 2017.
The prisoners' release may take up to several days, as the pardons must first be signed by the king and published in the country's official gazette.
According to local media, the decision does not overturn the prisoners' ban on holding office.
A number of political parties, including the far-right Vox, have said they intend to appeal against the decision.
What happened in 2017?
The ruling separatists in the Catalan parliament declared independence in October 2017, after a referendum which the Spanish Constitutional Court declared illegal.
The Spanish government maintains that Catalonia had no constitutional right to break away, and temporarily imposed direct rule on the region after the government in Barcelona declared independence.
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A number of Catalan officials, including the region's leader Carles Puigdemont, fled abroad.
But others who remained in Spain were put on trial and nine separatists were given prison sentences over their role in the independence attempt in 2019.
Who are the nine leaders?
Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia, was the highest-ranking pro-independence leader after Carles Puigdemont fled the country. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds over the referendum.
Three former Catalan government officials - Labour Minister Dolors Bassa, spokesman Jordi Turull and Foreign Minister Raül Romeva - were each given 12-year sentences.
Former Catalan parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell was handed a sentence of 11.5 years, while former Catalan ministers Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull were both given 10.5 years.
Spanish PM heads to Catalonia before pardon to separatists
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will deliver a major speech in Barcelona Monday as his government is poised to pardon the jailed Catalan separatists behind a failed 2017 independence bid. He is set to outline his roadmap for Catalonia during an address beginning at noon (1000 GMT) to regional dignitaries at the prestigious Liceu theatre in the heart of the Catalan capital. The highly anticipated speech, called "Reunion: a plan for theHe is set to outline his roadmap for Catalonia during an address beginning at noon (1000 GMT) to regional dignitaries at the prestigious Liceu theatre in the heart of the Catalan capital.
Catalan activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were sentenced to nine years.
Three others were found guilty of disobedience and fined, but not jailed.
How have Spaniards reacted to the pardons?
According to one newspaper poll, more than 60% of people are against the decision, and mass protests were held in the capital, Madrid, earlier this month.
Many argue the decision threatens Spain's national unity.
Jorge Blanco, an office worker in Madrid, told the BBC the decision was "a way of destabilising democracy and splitting up Spain", and said he feared it could set a dangerous precedent.
"Perhaps [Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez] feels like he has to do this, because we've seen this coming for a long time. But it means that we might see similar independence movements in other areas of Spain," he said.
Ángel Santos, a petrol pump attendant in the capital, said he believed the nine Catalan leaders should remain in prison: "If they've done something wrong, they should serve their sentence just like any other person."
The country's Supreme Court has also said it opposes the decision, although its position is not binding.
Spain Releasing 9 Catalan Separatists From Jail, All Banned From Public Office
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the release was "the best decision for Catalonia and the best decision for Spain.""The government has taken the decision because it is the best decision for Catalonia and the best decision for Spain," Sánchez said during a nationally televised appearance. "We hope to open a new era of dialogue and build new bridges.
But in Catalonia, there is anger too.
When Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the plans to pardon the leaders in Barcelona on Monday, hundreds of demonstrators outside called for independence from Spain and said the separatists should not have been convicted in the first place.
School teacher Josep Sunyer told Reuters news agency: "It is good because it is a step that the Spanish government has taken, but it falls short because in principle it only lets them get out of prison."
He added that the decision would not overturn the leaders' ban on holding public office or offer an amnesty to hundreds of others facing charges over the 2017 referendum.
The independence movement has said the Spanish pardons came as the European Court of Human Rights prepared to consider appeals by three of the jailed leaders.
Catalonia's exiled former leader Carles Puigdemont said on Sunday that the pardons would not resolve the political problem between Spain and the region.
"The Spanish state will release some political prisoners - who should not have spent a day in prison - before the European justice orders it. But it will do so three and a half years too late."
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