Brussels (Brussels Morning) Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Monday that his government will go ahead with pardons for jailed leaders of the Catalan separatist movement, despite harsh criticism of the move by the opposition parties, most of the public, and even the separatist movement.
Socialist Workers’ Party leader Sanchez’s government is set to approve the sweeping clemency for nine jailed Catalans during the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Reportedly, the pardons would be reversible, contingent on separatist leaders not attempting another unilateral referendum, and would bar them from holding public office for a set time.
Recent opinion polls indicate that a majority of Spanish citizens – as much as 60% – oppose the clemency, while thousands of Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid last week to protest the planned pardons.
The opposition, including centre-right Popular Party (PP), the popular right Citizens and the far-right Vox, claim the pardons reflect the Catalan parties’ support for the ruling coalition in the Chamber of Deputies, where Sanchez’s Socialists hold a minority.
The Catalan independence movement has also reacted coldly to the planned pardons, dismissing them as “grandstanding” by the Prime Minister. According to the movement’s leaders, the Spanish government is acting under pressure from the international community, which mostly criticised Madrid’s heavy-handed treatment of the organisers of the failed 2017 independence referendum.
The independence movement also believes that Sanchez is rushing to pre-empt pending European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) verdicts in the cases of three of the nine jailed politicians and activists. The nine have been handed prison sentences ranging from nine to thirteen years on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.
Many other Catalan politicians have been found guilty of disobedience, after they participated in organising the referendum even though it had been declared unconstitutional. They have been handed suspended sentences and are barred from holding office, despite their sentences having now been served in full.